The younger generation lined up this week to defend themselves against the accusation that they are too reverential when it comes to the three dominant players in men’s tennis.
Nick Kyrgios stood by his description of Novak Djokovic as ‘cringeworthy’ and Russia’s world No 13 Daniil Medvedev revealed that he hated Roger Federer when he was younger.
It comes in the week of Stefanos Tsitsipas admitting that the Big Three’s monopoly on Grand Slams has become “boring” and criticism from Boris Becker that the more youthful players lack the mindset to take them on.
Preparing for his opening match at the Fever Tree Championships at The Queens Club in London, Kyrgios was not backing down from his stance that he “can’t stand” world No 1 Djokovic, and that Nadal is “super salty” when he loses.
The Australian speaks from more of a position of authority than the others as his record against the big guns is impressive, including a 2-0 advantage over Djokovic.
“I don’t personally probably show them respect. They’re just good at tennis,” said Kyrgios. “I’m not sure if we give them too much respect. I just don’t know if the younger guys are good enough to beat them over five sets.
“Over five sets I don’t think anyone will ever beat Rafa at the French while he is healthy, the court is just too suited to his game style.
“At Wimbledon it’s going to be tough to beat Novak or Federer over five sets.”
Medvedev, whose form has put him on the cusp of the top 10, agreed that it would be preferable to have some change at the top and related it to his own experience as a young fan.
“When I was younger, I hated Roger. I just couldn’t see him win again,” he said.
“I was cheering from the first round for other guys because that’s the way I was. When Barcelona was winning everything in football, I wanted them to lose.”
The Russian, who two years ago was fined at Wimbledon for throwing coins at the umpire after a defeat, believes the key to the trio’s long-term success is an improved recovery technique and the large staff the best players can afford to employ.
“I think the biggest reason is the medicine, physios - everything goes forward,’ said Medvedev.
“Before everybody was finishing their careers when they were 30, they couldn’t move anymore. Now, Federer at 37 he can hold five sets on clay and be ready in two days,” the Russian added.
With Andy Murray making his return to the court today, Kyrgios revealed the subject of him partnering the Scot in the Wimbledon doubles had come up, but that he had rejected the idea.
“I don’t think I want to carry him for Wimbledon dubs - I think he can find someone else to do that for him,” joked Kyrgios when asked if they might be a team.
“When I hit with him a few weeks ago, we spoke about it. But I don’t know about my body. If I happen to go deep at Wimbledon it’s too tough to play doubles as well.”
Kyrgios said he could not believe his eyes when he ran into the Briton practising at Queens Club on Monday.
Murray, who underwent a hip resurfacing operation five months ago, is making his comeback this week by partnering Feliciano Lopez in the doubles.
“Andy was the first person I saw here, doing his drills,” Kyrgios told reporters.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
“Just to see him back healthy and happy on court is all that matters. He is a warrior. He’s good enough to do damage in doubles, especially with Feliciano.
“I’d almost pay to watch that match.”
Kyrgios shares a warm friendship with Murray. The Scot has defended Kyrgios on a number of occasions when the younger player ruffled feathers with his on-court behaviour and barbed criticism of his fellow professionals.
Kyrgios said Murray had spoken to him about the possibility of them playing doubles at Wimbledon when they practised at the All England Club a few weeks ago.
Serena Williams appears to have given up on the idea of playing a grass court tournament ahead of Wimbledon.
The 37 year-old American has been in Europe but is no longer expected to play at Eastbourne next week to try to get some extra matches after her third round loss in Paris. Reuters