Djokovic praises Kyrgios for support in tough times

Novak Djokovic said on Thursday he wants to play a practice match against Nick Kyrgios ahead of the Australian Open, the latest improvement in what was once an icy relationship.

Previously the pair rarely saw eye-to-eye, with the divisive Australian once calling the 21-time Grand Slam champion "a tool".

But their relations warmed when Kyrgios became one of the few players to offer Djokovic support in his Australia deportation saga a year ago, related to his Covid vaccination status.

"I wasn't his favourite guy -- let's say it that way -- for many years," Djokovic said in Adelaide, where he is preparing for the Australian Open.

"But he was one of the very few that stood by me last year, and I respect that and appreciate that.

"In those moments you can actually see who truly supports you and who is by your side and who goes with, I guess, the flow of the society and the pressures that media puts on you.

"He was giving me undivided support in the moments where I was being challenged a lot, and him as an Australian, I respected that a lot. Since then, our relationship has changed for better."

It has changed so much that they are planning to practice together at Melbourne Park next week, as Kyrgios recovers from an ankle injury.

"Well, we are talking with the Australian Open about doing something in a week prior to the start of the tournament," he said.

"Yes, I chatted with Nick, and I would like to play with him, and he accepted, but he wants shorter sets. Let's see if that works out."

mp/ssy