ATP

Kyrgios says Aus Open should be cancelled, backs Djokovic amid 'morally wrong' vaccine mandate

By Sports Desk November 15, 2021

Nick Kyrgios believes the Australian Open should be cancelled as he threw his support behind rival Novak Djokovic, insisting the COVID-19 vaccine mandate is "morally wrong".

It remains to be seen whether world number one Djokovic will defend his Australian Open title in Melbourne in January due to vaccination requirements.

The state of Victoria, where the year's opening grand slam takes place at Melbourne Park, has introduced a vaccine mandate for professional athletes and across most industries amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2021 Australian Open went ahead, albeit in February instead of January, and without fans for most of the tournament following a snap lockdown of Melbourne due to COVID-19.

Djokovic was among the players critical of the conditions athletes endured prior to this year's Australian Open, with strict quarantine measures introduced.

Kyrgios and Djokovic have clashed in the past, but the former backed the nine-time Australian Open champion as he called for the upcoming grand slam to be scrapped.

"I don't think the Aus Open should go ahead, just for the people in Melbourne – you’ve got to send a message," Australian former world number 13 Kyrgios said on his 'No Boundaries' podcast.

"How long did [Melbourne] do in lockdown? 275 days or something?"

Kyrgios also referenced Brooklyn Nets star and NBA champion Kyrie Irving, who is yet to feature this season due to his refusal to be vaccinated against coronavirus, which is preventing him from practicing or playing – New York has a mandate in place that states players must have had a COVID-19 jab.

Kyrgios – an Australian Open quarter-finalist in 2015 – added: "Kyrie, Novak … These guys have given so much, sacrificed so much. They are global athletes who millions of people look up to.

"I just think it is so morally wrong to force someone to be vaccinated.

"I'm double vaccinated, but I just don't think it's right to force anyone [to be vaccinated] and say 'you can't come and play here because you're not vaccinated'.

"There are other solutions around it, [such as] to get tested every day. In the [United] States I know they've got rapid tests, and it's coming to Australia. It's 85 per cent success rate, you wait 15 minutes and then you're allowed to play."

Victorian sports minister Martin Pakula hit back on Tuesday, telling reporters: "I really like Nick Kyrgios and I cheer for him every time he plays and I certainly don't want to have beef with Nick Kyrgios but I actually couldn't follow the logic of his comments. We've had a long lockdown so the Australian Open shouldn't proceed? I'm not sure I follow that.

"I think the opposite applies. Melburnians, Victorians and, frankly all Australians, are absolutely gagging for major events. Our economy needs it, our state psyche needs it. It's a global grand slam, it's going to go ahead."

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    Nick Kyrgios compared the crowd during his Australian Open first-round win to a zoo as fans copied a famous Cristiano Ronaldo celebration at almost every point.

    Cries of 'siuu' could be heard throughout much of the home favourite's straight-sets victory over Liam Broady, his first match since a Laver Cup defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas in September.

    The shouts were apparently mimicking Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo's famous goal celebration.

    There were similar incidents during Andy Murray's battling five-set win over Nikoloz Basilashvili, as the five-time finalist won his first match at the Melbourne major since 2017.

    The raucous crowds caused confusion as many observers wondered if Murray and Kyrgios were being booed on court, despite each player also enjoying huge support.

    Kyrgios later explained he was not surprised to hear the noise from the stands but was taken aback by how long they persisted.

    "It's just a stupid, f***, I can't believe they did it so much," he said after his 6-4 6-4 6-3 victory on John Cain Arena. "They were doing some Ronaldo thing. Ronaldo does it every time he scores.

    "It's like... I thought they were going to do it for like 10 minutes. They did it for two and a half hours, like, every point. I don't know why. It was a zoo out there."

    Murray had wondered if the crowd was turning on him during his epic 6-1 3-6 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 victory because he had been targeted during his practice session on Monday.

    "Initially, I thought it was [booing] because there were some people booing during my practice yesterday," he said. "I have no idea what for! 

    "But then, after a few times, it was like, no, they're doing that, I think it's like 'Siuu' or something that Ronaldo does when he scores. And, yeah, it was incredibly irritating!"

    Kyrgios produced some superb if often unorthodox tennis as he booked a second-round clash with world number two Daniil Medvedev, who is the highest-ranked male in the draw following the refusal to allow Novak Djokovic to compete.

    The 26-year-old would like to return to John Cain to aid his chances of improving his record against the Russian to 3-0.

    "It's going to be a hell of an experience for me," he said. "He's probably 'the' best player in the world at the moment. So I'm pretty excited, I'm excited for that moment. That's why I play the game.

    "I feel like those matches still excite me, to go out there and play the best in the world. That was always something I wanted to prove to people that someone like me could do, win those matches.

    "I'm not going to go into it with a lot of expectation. I'm going to go out there, have some fun, play my game. I have a pretty set-in-stone game plan of what I need to do to have success.

    "As I said, he's probably the best player in the world, he does everything extremely well. He's a hard worker, ticks all the boxes. I'm not going to even think about that now. To play it on John Cain would be – I'm just going to call it the Kyrgios Court – would be fun."

  • Australian Open: Murray targeting 'deep run' after beating Basilashvili in five-set epic Australian Open: Murray targeting 'deep run' after beating Basilashvili in five-set epic

    Andy Murray marked his return to the Australian Open with a thrilling five-set win over Nikoloz Basilashvili and immediately targeted "a deep run" in the competition.

    The three-time grand slam winner edged 21st seed Basilashvili 6-1 3-6 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 in a first-round match that lasted three hours and 52 minutes.

    It is Murray's first win at the tournament in five years in what was his first outing at Melbourne Park since 2019, when he thought he might have to retire.

    Murray was playing on the same court where a retirement video was played after defeat to Roberto Bautista Agut three years ago.

    But the 34-year-old has battled back from injury setbacks admirably and last week reached his first ATP Tour final since October 2019 at the Sydney Classic.

    With Japan's Taro Daniel now standing between Murray and a place in round three of the Australian Open, the five-time beaten finalist is eager to make up for lost time.

    "It's amazing to be back," Murray said in his on-court interview. "It's been a tough three, four years. 

    "I have put a lot of work to be back here and I have played on this court many times and the atmosphere has been incredible. 

    "I have always had fantastic support and this is the court I thought I potentially played my last match on. 

    "But it is good to be back, winning a five-set battle like that. I could not ask for any more.

    "I would love to have a deep run here if possible. It's something I have not had at one of the slams since I came back from the injury and it is something that motivates me."

    Wild card Murray broke hard-hitting Basilashvili nine times on John Cain Arena, but he looked physically drained as the match dragged on.

    The former world number one showed incredible resolve to take the deciding set, however, against an opponent that had lost just once in seven previous five-set battles.

    "I will hopefully keep improving. There are things in my game I can definitely do better," Murray said.

    "I have played some of my best tennis here over the years. I feel comfortable here and I hope I can do well here this tournament."

  • Irving will not change vaccine stance despite Durant layoff: I'm standing rooted in what I believe in Irving will not change vaccine stance despite Durant layoff: I'm standing rooted in what I believe in

    Kyrie Irving does not feel compelled to change his stance regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, despite the Brooklyn Nets potentially being without Kevin Durant for six weeks.

    The seven-time NBA All-Star has refused to be vaccinated against coronavirus and is therefore banned from playing in home games due to New York's vaccine mandate.

    Irving was left off the Nets' initial roster for the 2021-22 season, but that decision was reversed last month when the 29-year-old was included as a part-time player.

    He has been restricted to four road games so far and has averaged 20 points, which is down on his career average of 22.8.

    The Nets could do with Irving more than ever after losing Durant to a knee injury that will keep him out for at least a month, but the point guard is staying rooted to his decision.

    "That's what I think comes into a lot of this culture and basketball and sport and entertainment," he said. "You bring in teams and you bring in situations. 

    "Kev's going to heal, Kev's going to be okay, and we're going to have to deal with that as his team-mates. 

    "But in terms of where I am with my life outside of this, I stay rooted in my decision. And that's just what it is.

    "It's not going to be swayed just because of one thing in this NBA life. That somehow it's brought to my attention as being more important than what's going on in the real world. 

    "It's just not happening for me. I respect everyone else's decision. I'm not going to try to convince anyone of anything or any of that, I'm just standing rooted in what I believe in. 

    "Though we're dealing with this right now with Kev, I know I'm protected by the organisation, by my team-mates, by all the doctors I've talked to. And I just stand rooted."

     

    Irving was speaking after leading Brooklyn with 27 points in their 114-107 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday – his best tally since returning to action this month.

    The Nets are once again denied the chance to partner star trio James Harden, Durant and Irving, but head coach Steve Nash is hopeful others can step up.

    "It's a great opportunity for guys and our team to grow," he said. "We can't rely on Kevin in ways we could, and we have to find ways and solutions to be competitive without him."

    The Nets' 'Big Three' have played only 16 games together, going 13-3 across that period.

    "It's a great challenge for us," Nash added. "I don't spend time dwelling on it. It wouldn't do us any good. It wouldn't do me any good. 

    "It wouldn't do the team any good if the leader of the team is sitting at home contemplating how many games they haven't played.

    "That would take me away from being excited and positive to come in every day and try to affect the group positively for these guys to feel empowered and to grow."

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