MELBOURNE • Nick Kyrgios showed why he is one of tennis' controversial figures, firing off a volley of insults on Wednesday by branding Rafael Nadal a sore loser and calling his uncle Toni an "idiot".
Speaking to tennis writer Ben Rothenberg on the No Challenges Remaining podcast, the Australian also disparaged world No. 1 Novak Djokovic for his "sick obsession" with being liked, among a number of other top professionals and fans who heckle him at his matches.
Kyrgios, 24, followed that up by forfeiting his second round Italian Open clash yesterday against Norway's Casper Ruud, who was leading 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 2-1.
Kyrgios was serving at 1-1 in the third set when the referee gave a point against him for unsportsmanlike conduct after he swore. His response was to kick a water bottle before throwing a chair on the clay court, packing his bag and then storming off court.
Kyrgios has a tense relationship with Nadal, who accused him of "lacking respect for the public, the opponent and himself" following the former world No. 1's loss at the Mexican Open in March.
The Spaniard remains bitter over the defeat, claiming after his semi-final Madrid Open loss to Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas last weekend that "of all the matches I lost this year (six), I deserved this undoing in all of them except against Kyrgios in Acapulco".
Nadal's former coach, Toni, also backed his nephew's assertion, telling Spanish sports broadcaster Radio Marca that "Rafa is totally right, and he lacks education and smartness". But Kyrgios has labelled the French Open champion as "super salty" - slang for someone who is petty and easily upset - and gracious only after victory.
TRYING TOO HARD
I feel like he just wants to be liked so much that I just can't stand him. This whole celebration thing that he does after matches, it's like so cringeworthy. It's very cringeworthy.
NICK KYRGIOS, who is less than impressed with Novak Djokovic's on-court celebrations.
He said: "When he wins, it's fine. But as soon as I beat him, it's like, 'He has no respect for me, my fans and no respect to the game'. It's not a good look for you, I feel.
"And then uncle Toni came out saying, 'He lacks education'. I'm like, 'Bra (brother), I did 12 years at school, you idiot. I'm very educated. I understand that you're upset I beat your family again'."
Turning his sights to Djokovic, Kyrgios described the 15-time Grand Slam winner as "a champion of the sport" but said the Serb was too desperate to be admired like Roger Federer.
He added: "I just feel like he has a sick obsession with wanting to be liked. He just wants to be like Roger.
"This whole celebration thing that he does after matches, it's like so cringeworthy. It's very cringeworthy."
He reserved his harshest criticism for Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco for thinking "he's God's gift" before slamming the 35-year-old as "the most arrogant person ever". He also made no apologies for hitting back at spectators who boo him during matches, saying: "These guys show me no respect. None. So why would I show you respect?"