A level-headed Nick Kyrgios has responded to Alexander Zverev’s scathing assessment of the Canberran’s grand slam title hopes on the eve of the Australian Open.
Kyrgios will enter the tournament as Australia’s top-ranked player in the men’s draw following Alex de Minaur’s injury-enforced withdrawal.
But World No.7 Zverev, himself a grand slam under-achiever, shot down Kyrgios’ prospects of securing a maiden grand slam just days out from the Open.
Speaking to media, the German bluntly said he believed there were simply others better than the Aussie.
“There’s a lot of young guys that are right now, no offence, just better than him,” he said.
“This is not a three-set match where you can win in an hour-and-20 (minutes) and get off the court.
“To beat the best, you have to play at your best for a longer period of time.”
Historically, one to hit back, a level-headed Kyrgios didn’t take the bait when probed by the media over Zverev’s sentiments on Saturday – a change in attitude consistent with his positive start to 2020.
He seemed more bemused than offended by Zverev’s critique and in no mood for an off-court stoush so close from the Open.
“I’m not going to entertain that too much,” Kyrgios said.
“With everything going on that’s the least of my worries.
“He’s a great player. I’m not quite sure where those comments come from.
“I’m sure he didn’t mean them in a bad way. But if he did, then I’m sorry for whatever I’ve done to you.”
Zverev’s comments raised eyebrows given his own underwhelming performances at grand slams.
Despite his reputation as tennis’ next big thing and a wold ranking as high as No.3, the 22-year-old is yet to make it past the quarter-final stage at a slam.
He and Kyrgios have built up a healthy rivalry as young stars on the rise.
The Australian world No.26 leads their head-to-head clashes 4-3 and won their most recent meeting in the final at Acapulco last March.
Kyrgios will face Italian Lorenzo Sonego in a first-round encounter at Melbourne Park on Tuesday.
The 24-year-old, who has won widespread praise for his recent efforts in raising funds for bushfire-ravaged communities, admitted he hadn’t yet turned his full focus to his seventh Australian Open campaign.
“I guess my mind is still not completely on the tennis side of things,” he said.
“Obviously with what’s going on, still it’s tough.
“With the fires … people are losing their families, homes, and it’s not easy to just completely switch your concentration on the Australian Open.
“At the same time I have to find the balance. I have to go out there and try to get the best out of my game.
“But when I’m playing, at the moment, I’m playing for a lot more than myself.”
Stream every match and every court of the Australian Open on 9Now. 20 January – 2 February 2020.