Philippoussis tips Australian resurgence
Two-time Grand Slam finalist Mark Philippoussis sees brighter days ahead for Australia's men, including new protégé Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Mark Philippoussis can see through the gloom and predict sunny days ahead for Australian tennis after enjoying an insightful Wimbledon coaching cameo with Thanasi Kokkinakis.
While a hip injury has stalled Nick Kyrgios’ progression and Bernard Tomic endures a motivational crisis, Philippoussis is tipping Kokkinakis to emerge from the wilderness and crack a place among the game’s elite.
Once bracketed alongside Kyrgios as a potential future world No.1 by tennis legends Mats Wilander and John Newcombe, Kokkinakis is languishing at 486th in the rankings after almost two years battling crippling injuries.
Philippoussis, though, has seen enough in the past fortnight to believe the 21-year-old is very much on the way back.
After stunning 2016 Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic at Queen’s, Kokkinakis took the fight to former US Open champion and top-four star Juan Martin del Potro in a tough four-setter at the All England Club.
The Adelaide talent rued another rough Grand Slam draw, having also pushed world No.9 Kei Nishikori to four epic sets at Roland Garros in his first major championship outing in two years.
Partnering Jordan Thompson, Kokkinakis was also knocked out of the Wimbledon doubles draw on Friday, but Philippoussis is adamant the experience – especially his exposure to del Potro on the big stage – will prove rewarding.
“You’ve got to remember this kid hasn’t been here for two years. He was on a couch 18 months ago,” the former Wimbledon finalist told AAP.
“He had a big win over Raonic last week and here he had his opportunities. He came out very nervous, lost his first service game and played great from there.
“A set all, then 3-1 up. Played a loose game and playing a champion like del Potro you can’t give him a sniff. You can’t let him back in. But he kept fighting and saved six match points and it was a very positive step in getting back.
“For him, it’s all about staying healthy. If this kid stays healthy, he’s top 20 by the end of next year.
“This year is just about staying healthy, playing more matches.”
Kokkinakis is continuing to work with his long-time mentor Todd Langman, but Philippoussis said “my door was always open for him” if he wants any added perspective.
“I’ve always liked Thanasi. I’ve always been there for him. I’m a big supporter,” said the two-time Davis Cup winner.
“He’s a good kid. I just want to see him do well.”
Despite no Australian man reaching the second round at Wimbledon for only the second time since 1938, Philippoussis insisted there was no cause for panic, noting that Kokkinakis was among three of the six early losers to fall to seeds.
“Right now some of the guys are struggling and some of them had some tough matches,” he said.
“Obviously they had some tough opponents. It happens.”