Melbourne VIC, Australia, 22 March 2016 |

As he continues his comeback from shoulder surgery and targets a return just prior to the French Open in May, we sat down for a chat with Aussie star Thanasi Kokkinakis.

Taking a quick time-out from his training in Melbourne – where he spends an increasing amount of time – the 19-year-old discussed his growing profile, his thoughts on an ideal home base and the influence of former world No.1 Lleyton Hewitt in his career.

On being involved in the ATP’s new #NextGen campaign:

“I think it’s good. Obviously the top four players in the world have been there for so long and done so many great things for the sport, but as you see now, there’a a lot of good young players coming through and a new wave. Hopefully we can build a top four, or even a top 10, of what we have now and make it just as strong, if not stronger. It’s a great thing, there’s many good players, and they’ve all got different strengths and weaknesses, so it’s good to be a part of it and hopefully we can keep pushing each other … A lot of the guys I know pretty well from juniors growing up and playing a lot with them and they’re all good guys. Again, all do things a bit differently on court and act a bit differently which makes it so exciting. We all want to be the best out of that next generation.”

On dealing with heightened expectations after his breakthrough 2015 season:

“It was tough even towards the end of last year … more people are watching you and they’re more aware of what you do. So that’s all about then going onto the practice court and trying to tidy up your weaknesses and trying to make your game more complete so it’s tougher for your opponents to figure out. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to put my whole practice together right now but when my shoulder gets right, that’s going to be the goal for me, to make myself a complete player and just get better in all my game so it’s just going to be harder for my opponents – even the experienced ones – to try and work out what do to (against me) … if you’re there focused and you play as well as you can on the day, then you can’t take it too hard if you lose because you know you’ve done everything you can. If someone plays too good on the day, then so be it, but if your base level’s there week in, week out, you’re going to have good results.”

On where he plans to be based in the world: 

“It’s tough to say – it’s (currently) probably half/half between Melbourne and Adelaide. Obviously my family still lives in Adelaide. I was thinking about moving out of home but there’s really no point – my Mum cooks all my meals when I’m back home in Adelaide (smiling) and I’m not there very often so it’s good to be around the family. We don’t have any indoor courts in Adelaide as well which is a frustrating thing so maybe I’d spend more time there if they had indoor courts, I don’t know. But I love Melbourne. It’s a great city, my sister lives here now and I think my brother may be moving here in the not-too-distant future. There’s probably a little bit more to do here in Melbourne but I also like Adelaide, it’s where I grew up, I feel comfortable, my mates are there … (When in Melbourne) I stay in South Yarra usually, in some apartments. I don’t think I need a house just yet here, but we’ll see – I wouldn’t usually be here this long because I’d usually be travelling so that’s probably why I don’t have a spot here. But we’ll see.”

What about an base overseas?

“There’s been talk about a couple of things. The Bahamas thing (where Lleyton Hewitt lives) came up and also maybe a spot in Greece, because that’s actually pretty close to some spots in Europe and I obviously have family roots there. So there are those two options, but I haven’t really sat down and decided yet. I’m just kind of doing the touring thing. I guess the older I get the more I’ll be able to adjust week in, week out on the road but it would be good to have that base. So that’s something I’ve got to talk about with my family and sort out.”

On the role Hewitt plays in his career: 

“He’s probably like a mentor. Not so much coach, but like a mentor/hitting partner type and kind of gives advice. He does coach a little bit but he won’t tell you ‘you need to do this with your game or you need to do that’. If he sees something he’ll pick it out and he’ll say and you obviously listen because it’s Lleyton and he obviously knows what he’s doing out there. He’s been a mentor, kind of shows us as well, especially at Davis Cup, just how he acts – he doesn’t have to say too much, you see how he acts and how he goes about it and you kind of pick his brains as well. And he’s been really good to get along with too … My first Davis Cup tie I played in Ostrava, Czech Republic last year, I was actually playing him for a singles spot and the competitiveness in that practice set was something that I’ve never felt before (smiling), he was getting so fiery, it felt like I was playing in a final there. Just to see how he goes about it, and his motivation and intensity after that many years of being so good and being No.1 in the world, and after all he’s done to show up in Ostrava and just put it in day in, day out and show us younger guys the effort he puts in, and his professionalism, is pretty much something you can take away and use in your career.”