Kokkinakis embraces Davis Cup pressure
A Davis Cup breakthrough in March has left Thanasi Kokkinakis feeling he can do damage again when he opens this weekend's Australia v Kazakhstan quarterfinal.
Teenage prodigy Thanasi Kokkinakis is confident he can repay Wally Masur’s faith again by giving Australia a winning start in the Davis Cup quarterfinal tie against Kazakhstan.
Kokkinakis edged out big-serving Sam Groth for a singles berth and will start proceedings at Darwin’s Marrara Sports Complex on Friday against Kazakhstan’s top player, world No.63 Mikhail Kukushkin.
Australia’s No.1 Nick Kyrgios will face off against world No.115 Aleksandr Nedovyesov in the second singles match.
Groth was unlucky to miss out on a singles berth for the grasscourt clash after continuing recent good form at Wimbledon.
But the 27-year-old will team with Lleyton Hewitt for Saturday’s doubles encounter against Andrey Gulubev and Nedovyesov.
Kokkinakis has risen to 69th in the world on the back of a series of strong performances, which included a third-round appearance at the French Open.
But it was the 19-year-old’s Davis Cup display against the Czech Republic in March that really proved his mettle.
Kokkinakis came from two sets and a break down to defeat world No.46 Lukas Rosol in the opening rubber, setting up Australia’s 3-2 victory on enemy territory.
“I just think he’s the real deal,” Davis Cup captain Masur said of Kokkinakis.
“He’s cool under pressure. The guy can play. He’s got a touch of class.”
Kokkinakis said his win over Rosol had been a huge moment in his career.
“Having that experience in Ostrava was really good for me – showing I can do it even when things aren’t going my way,” Kokkinakis said.
“I was down two sets to love, and a break – in my first ever live rubber. I think Wally was regretting his decision a little bit.
“He told me to sit down and smile. I told him it was tough to do when you’re getting absolutely chopped. But then I got the momentum.”
Meanwhile, Nick Kyrgios said he was feeling fresh after spending a few days back home in Canberra and was ready to put in a strong display for his country.
“This is the sort of atmosphere I love playing in front of,” Kyrgios said.
“When the crowd’s behind you, you can do some pretty good things. I feel we all thrive on that a little bit.”
Hewitt has been a lock for a Davis Cup singles berth for most of his decorated career.
But the 34-year-old said he was more than happy to pass on the baton to the younger generation, and instead focus on winning the crucial doubles rubber.