Kokkinakis hoping for “fireworks” in Kyrgios US Open clash
Thanasi Kokkinakis is juggling feelings of excitement and awkwardness as he prepares to face Nick Kyrgios – his good friend and doubles partner – for the first time in eight years.
Thanasi Kokkinakis couldn’t quite believe it when he saw on social media that he had drawn Nick Kyrgios in his opening-round match at the US Open.
“We were practising, not with each other, but next to each other on the next courts. I just got a tweet, and I was like, ‘I think we play each other?’ I was like, surely not, we’ve got less than one per cent chance,” he recounted to tennis.com.au.
“And then we look at it and we’re like, ‘Yeah, it’s true’. We couldn’t really believe it, it was a bit awkward. We just said, ‘Let’s have some fun and go out there’.”
Kyrgios is one of the in-form players leading into the year’s final Grand Slam tournament, backing up his Wimbledon final with the Washington title and a quarterfinal run at the Montreal Masters.
But Kokkinakis has shown some impressive form of his own, most notably in Cincinnati, where he qualified for the main draw and then pushed world No.12 Jannik Sinner to the brink in a three-hour tussle.
Back at a tournament where he feeds off the New York City energy, Kokkinakis is quietly confident ahead of his clash with Kyrgios, scheduled for Monday night at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I like the US Open. I like hard courts. I’d say it’s the closest thing to the Australian Open as far as energy and atmosphere go,” he said.
“I made a junior final here once, in 2013. Same year I played Nick in the junior Aussie finals. So good memories here. Always love coming back. The atmosphere is electric here.
“It will be interesting; obviously he’s got an unbelievable serve and he’s playing some great tennis right now, but I know on my day I can match it with anyone.
“It’s gonna be fireworks hopefully… and we’ll have some good fun.”
Yet Kokkinakis noted there was a slightly awkward dynamic to the on-court match-up, given he and Kyrgios are close friends and frequent doubles partners.
“It’s definitely a different feeling. It was a bit of an uneasy feeling when you saw the draw, just because we practise all the time with each other and we know each other so well, and we try and always lift each other up playing doubles,” he said.
“When one of us wins or loses, we always send messages of support to each other.”
Final training sessions are underway at Flushing Meadows, where a new generation of tennis stars will take centre court.
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While it is a shame that one of them will be eliminated in the opening round, the silver lining is that an Australian is guaranteed to progress in New York.
Should it be Kokkinakis, it would be the continuation of a resurgent year that began with his first ATP title in Adelaide, then featured victory alongside Kyrgios in the men’s doubles at Australian Open 2022, and most recently saw him equal his career-high ranking of No.69 – more than seven years after first attaining it as a teenager.
“It’s a pretty weird thing to think about. But hopefully I can beat that going forward, and I think I can. And just keep playing some good tennis,” said the 26-year-old, who has endured years of physical ailments and was unranked for periods in 2016 and 2017.
“(For the rest of the season hopefully I can) make some deep runs in some tournaments. We’ve got Davis Cup as well; hopefully make the finals in Davis Cup and see how that goes. And hopefully me and Nick make the ATP Finals in Turin, for the doubles. That would be pretty nuts.
“Got a few things going forward which I’m looking forward to, but trying to stay healthy and enjoy the rest of year.”
Kokkinakis is one of seven Australian competitors scheduled to compete on day one in New York, a strong contingent that also includes Australia’s top-ranked man Alex de Minaur.
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