Stefanos Tsitsipas accused Nick Kyrgios of being a “bully” following the “circus” of their fiery third-round clash at Wimbledon.
Tsitsipas, the tournament’s fourth seed, was upset in four dramatic sets by Kyrgios that saw both players handed code violations after losing their temper.
The Greek player apologized after whacking a ball into the crowd in frustration, narrowly avoiding the head of a spectator, but said he had been “triggered” by the behavior of Kyrgios on the other side of the net. Tsitsipas also vented his frustration by hitting balls at Kyrgios during points.
Kyrgios, who called for Tsitsipas to be defaulted for the incident with the spectator, was involved in a constant exchange with the umpire during the heated four-set match and insisted that he did nothing to “disrespect” his opponent during the contest.
“It’s constant bullying, that’s what he does,” Tsitsipas said. “He bullies the opponents. He was probably a bully at school himself. I don’t like bullies. I don’t like people that put other people down.
“He has some good traits in his character, as well. But when he, he also has a very evil side to him, which if it’s exposed, it can really do a lot of harm and bad to the people around him.
“Myself, when I feel like other people disrespect me and don’t respect what I’m doing from the other side of the court, it’s absolute normal from my side to act and do something about it.”
“I don’t know what to say. I’m not sure how I bullied him,” Kyrgios replied. “He was the one hitting balls at me, he was the one that hit a spectator, he was the one that smacked it out of the stadium.
“I didn’t do anything. I was actually like, apart from me just going back and forth to the umpire for a bit, I did nothing towards Stefanos today that was disrespectful, I don’t think. I was not drilling him with balls.”
Kyrgios went on to call Tsitsipas “soft” as the row esclated. “To come in here and say I bullied him, that’s just soft,” Kyrgios added. “We’re not cut from the same cloth.
“If he’s affected by that today, then that’s what’s holding him back, because someone can just do that and that’s going to throw him off his game like that. I just think it’s soft.”
Tsitsipas said that “someone needs to sit down” with Kyrgios following the match and suggested players should get together to enforce a rule change regarding on-court behaviour.
“I like what his tennis has to bring to our sport,” he added. “Like he’s very different. That’s not a bad thing. But I don’t think there has been a single match I have played with him that he was having that way. There comes a point where you really get tired of it, let’s say.
“The constant talking, the constant complaining. I mean, I’m about to serve, and there is a big gap there that there is no tennis being played, which is the most important thing in the court. We are there to play tennis.
“Every single point that I played today I feel like there was something going on on the other side of the net.
“I’m not trying to be distracted by that, because I know it might be intentional, because for sure he can play another way. And that’s his way of manipulating the opponent and making you feel distracted, in a way.
“There is no other player that does this. There is no other player that is so upset and frustrated all the time with something. It triggers it so easy and so fast.
“I really hope all us players can come up with something and make this a cleaner version of our sport, have this kind of behavior not accepted, not allowed, not tolerated, and move on better.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.