Melbourne, VIC, 13 January 2019 |

Ahead of the year’s first Grand Slam event, several Australian stars – who all arrive at Melbourne Park in good form – discussed their excitement at playing in one of the world’s biggest tournaments in their own backyard.

Thanasi Kokkinakis

“It’s always an unbelievable feeling to come back to a home slam, unbelievable atmosphere. My best memory is 2015 in the first round, when I beat Gulbis. I was on Show Court 3 having those fans just banging on the wood, everyone was going nuts and I remember having chills at every moment. I couldn’t get to sleep until 4-5am the next morning, so it was a pretty surreal moment.

“(This year I’m aiming) just to give it all I have, to go out there, embrace the crowd, be calm and try and play to the way I know I can. Play my level, compete hard and give it a red-hot crack.”

ORDER OF PLAY: Australian Open Day 1

James Duckworth

“Tough match (against Rafael Nadal in round one), but I’m looking forward to it. It’s why you play tennis, to play on these big stages and these great champions. I’m going to have to play very well. It’s a tough ask, but I’m going to go out there and play aggressive, try play my game and take it to him.

“It was awesome (in the Australian Open Play-off) to be able to get through four back-to-back five-set matches. I’ve never actually done it before in my career, and just winning that wildcard is really nice, and you feel like you’re a little more deserving. It gave me a lot of confidence with my body as well, playing those matches, and I think it will hold me in good stead come Monday.”

John Millman

“I think 2018 was quite a good year. I came back from groin surgery only the year before that, so for me, the toughest thing throughout my career has been to manage my body. That’s been tough; it’s very difficult, but if I can stay injury free I do believe that I’m playing good enough tennis, and I’ve had a really good feeling in the off season and now into the start of the season I have a good feeling.

“I need a bit of luck to go my way too; there’s no doubt you do need a little bit of luck. Hopefully I can put together a good year and climb up the rankings higher. I’d love to be seeded at these tournaments. I missed out only by a couple of spots this year (at the Australian Open), but you know that’s what you love to do. I’d love to climb up the rankings a little bit more and give myself chances to win ATP events. I think that that would be really special, and I feel like on my day I can beat a lot of players.”

Kimberly Birrell

“(I’m most excited about) just walking out onto the court, having the home support, and just getting to test myself against the best players in the world. It’s what you train everyday for, or what we train every day for, especially being an Aussie at a home Grand Slam. That’s definitely what I’m most excited about.

“Last time I actually played on Hisense Arena, that was definitely the biggest (crowd I’ve played in front of), and I think I played after Sam Groth, and he won. So there was a lot of fanatic Aussie fans in the crowd. As a teen I was very nervous, but that was a really cool experience. Everyone was a little bit rowdy and getting behind me. Who knows what court I’ll be on this time around; it might be the very back far court, but I wouldn’t care.”