Dominic Thiem has slammed Nick Kyrgios’ criticism of tennis players for breaching social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic – only for the Aussie to fire back and accuse the world No.3 of stupidity.
Kyrgios has been an outspoken critic of players flaunting COVID-19 safety measures, including Alexander Zverev, who followed up an apology for his appearance in Novak Djokovic’s controversial Adria Tour by going to a packed party.
Thiem also played in the Adria Tour, which resulted in Djokovic and his wife Jelena, Grigor Dimitrov, Viktor Troicki and multiple entourage members testing positive for COVID-19. Djokovic has since apologised.
Austrian star Thiem and German world No.7 Zverev tested negative, despite partying at a nightclub with Djokovic during the event. Thiem has taken issue with Kyrgios passing judgment on what constitutes poor behaviour.
“Kyrgios has built a lot of nonsense himself,” Thiem, an Australian Open finalist this year, told Tiroler Tageszeitung (translated).
“I understand even less when he interferes with everything. It would be better if he came to terms with himself rather than always criticising the others.”
The “nonsense” translation has also been interpreted as “mistakes”, but Thiem’s point was clear. Kyrgios fired back at Thiem on Twitter.
“What are you talking about @ThiemDomi? Mistakes like smashing rackets? Swearing? Tanking a few matches here or there? Which everyone does? None of you have the intellectual level to even understand where I’m coming from. I’m trying to hold them accountable,” Kyrgios said.
“This just shows what a joke @ThiemDomi @AlexZverev & @DjokerNole think this is, two of them partying like potatoes during a global pandemic. People losing lives, loved ones and friends, and then Thiem standing up for the ‘mistake’. These guys are the ‘top’ of our sport. SMH.”
Thiem also defended Zverev, saying that he was unlucky to be filmed at the party soon after making his apology.
“He should have done it like me. He was also tested negatively, only his mistake was that he first wrote the statement and then had the bad luck of being filmed at the party,” Thiem said.
“But I don’t like the way people criticise him. He is treated as if he were an elementary school child. But he’s a 23-year-old man. Sure, he made a mistake – but I don’t understand why everyone is getting involved.”
Thiem also claimed that world No.1 Djokovic did not deserve the mass criticism that he has faced over the Adria Tour debacle, which was run by his charity. Exhibition events in Serbia and Croatia featured no social distancing and packed crowds despite the ongoing spread of COVID-19, failings that Thiem said he was “extremely sorry for”.
“But it is the same as with Zverev: I do not understand why so many shoot at Novak Djokovic. He didn’t break a law. You have to say that clearly,” Thiem said.
“He didn’t do anything. If I ignore our role model function – where we made mistakes – I don’t understand the criticism of us. I was in Nice now, I saw pictures of other cities. It is no different than the tournament in Belgrade.
“And then hit Djokovic like this? It’s too cheap for me.”
Thiem follows tennis legend Boris Becker in calling out Kyrgios for criticising his fellow players. The Australian has been praised in media circles for condemning bad behaviour, yet has bucked the usual etiquette of the locker room; Becker went so far as to call him a “rat”.
Thiem is still travelling for exhibition events and says that he is testing himself daily for coronavirus. He brushed off ongoing criticism of his active schedule, while other top players like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Kyrgios have promoted careful isolation.
“I don’t see that I should bunker at home when I’m healthy. That’s why I decided to take the tests,” Thiem said.