Controversial Aussie tennis star Nick Kyrgios has made a stunning backflip on calls for the 2022 Australian Open to be cancelled.
The outspoken tennis star, who is ranked 90th in the world, made the shock claim about the grand slam on his ‘No Boundaries’ podcast, calling for the January event to be scrapped due to Melbourne’s recent Covid-19 lockdowns.
Kyrgios, 26, had also leapt to the defence of rival Novak Djokovic, who may not be able to defend his Australian Open crown in January due to a new mandate for players to be vaccinated.
The tennis star has since taken to Instagram to clarify his stance, claiming some of his comments on the podcast were ‘taken out of context’.
He also made the stunning claim that unvaccinated tennis stars coming from overseas to compete shouldn’t be allowed to enter Australia.
Nick Kyrgios (pictured competing at the tournament in February) has called for January’s Australian Open grand slam to be cancelled
‘Tennis has been a big part of my life for 15 years plus and I’ve given myself a lot of sacrifice every single day to this sport and I love it,’ Kyrgios explained to his 1.7 million Instagram followers in a video.
‘To say I want the Australian Open cancelled, I think that was the sentence that got taken out of context.
‘It’s more so for the people of Melbourne, who have gone through hell and back. I think it’s been nearly 300 days of lockdown and your freedom has been taken away from you.’
‘I don’t think it’s morally right to accept players from overseas that aren’t vaccinated to come into our country.’
It comes after Kyrgios came under fire from Victorian sports minister Martin Pakula over his podcast comments for the 2022 event to be scrapped.
‘Melburnians, Victorians and, frankly all Australians, are absolutely gagging for major events,’ the minister told reporters on Tuesday.
‘Our economy needs it, our state psyche needs it.’
It come after Kygrios calls on his new podcast made headlines.
‘I don’t think the Aus Open should go ahead, just for the people in Melbourne – you’ve got to send a message,’ Kyrgios said on the podcast.
‘How long did (Melbourne) do in lockdown? 275 days or something?’
Melbourne was plunged into a snap five day lockdown in the middle of this year’s Australian Open in February. The grand slam continued behind closed doors.
Kyrgios, who is fully vaccinated, said he believed Djokovic should be able to compete regardless of his vaccination status.
He also referenced US basketball star Kyrie Irving, who has missed the start of NBA season due to his refusal to get the jab.
Kyrgios has previously been critical of Djokovic’s antics on the tennis circuit during the pandemic.
In 2021 he called the Serbian a ‘tool’ for demanding eased hotel quarantine conditions for tennis players isolating ahead of the Australian Open.
But Kyrgios appeared to have changed his stance during a chat with his two best friends Alex Babanine and James Frawley on their No Boundaries podcast.
Kyrgios leapt to the defence of world number one Novak Djokovic (pictured with wife Jelena) who may not be able to defend his Australian Open crown
‘Kyrie, Novak… These guys have given so much, sacrificed so much. They are global athletes who millions of people look up to,’ Kyrgios said.
‘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 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.’
Unvaccinated stars will likely be banned from competing in Melbourne as Victoria recovers from a third wave of coronavirus.
Premier Daniel Andrews has introduced a vaccine mandate for professional athletes competing in domestic sports leagues and has hinted tennis stars who haven’t been jabbed may not be granted a visa to come Down Under.
Victoria’s vaccination mandate forced the early retirement of AFL Carlton player Liam Jones on Sunday.
Novak Djokovic (pictured) may not be able to defend his 2021 Australian Open crown
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke recently confirmed Djokovic would not be allowed into Australia unless he was double-vaccinated.
Djokovic has implied he would rather give up his title defence and quest of a record 21st grand slam than reveal his vaccination status.
Twenty time grand slam champion Roger Federer is also set to miss the Australian Open for the second year in a row as he recovers from a third knee surgery in 18 months.
Despite calls for January’s tournament to be scrapped, Kyrgios still insists the Australian Open is his favourite grand slam and the French Open as ‘the worst f*****g slam’.
Making the quarter finals in Melbourne in 2015 remains Kyrgios’ best result at a grand slam.
‘The Australian is my favourite slam with the home crowd, the pressure is so different,’ he said.
‘Everyone expects so much of you, I can’t do anything without the media being there – it’s brutal.’
Nick Kyrgios (pictured with on-off girlfriend Chiara Passari) still regards the Australian Open as his favourite grand slam