Davis Cup: Experience counts for Thanasi Kokkinakis
As he prepares alongside Australians team-mates for this week’s Davis Cup assignment, Thanasi Kokkinakis is determined to make his experience count.
When Thanasi Kokkinakis considers his career high points, Davis Cup will always factor.
In only his second appearance in the world team competition at age 18 in 2015, Kokkinakis recovered from a two-sets deficit against the Czech Republic’s Lukas Rosol – then ranked more than 100 places higher than the 133rd-ranked Australian – in Ostrava to win his first Davis Cup rubber.
“Probably my favourite memory was my debut, I’d say, for a live rubber,” said Kokkinakis, whose earlier experience of Davis Cup was in a dead rubber against Frenchman Julien Benneteau in the 2014 first round.
“When I was two sets to love and a break down and then coming back in Czech Republic and winning – that was probably my best moment (in Davis Cup).”
Representing Australia has since provided other memorable moments for the now 27-year-old, who successfully returned to the team in 2022 after a seven-year break due to health challenges.
Competing as the nation’s No.2 player, Kokkinakis sealed Australia’s progress over Hungary in the March qualifying tie with victory over Zsombor Piros in the live fifth rubber.
Later in the year, he was delighted to be part of the team when Australia finished runner-up to Canada in the 2022 Finals.
“We’ve had some special moments, obviously as a team,” Kokkinakis told tennis.com.au. “Making the final last year was a very cool experience.”
Kokkinakis is naturally delighted then to be a part of the Australian team – named alongside Alex de Minaur, Jordan Thompson, Max Purcell and Matt Ebden – contesting the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals in Manchester.
“It’s an exciting time … it’s good to be with the boys,” he related. “There’s not many weeks like it. They’re very different to the usual weeks that you get on tour, so it’s always an enjoyable experience – a little bit more pressure, but its good fun having a group and travelling with a team.”
The team’s first assignment in Manchester is against Great Britain on Wednesday, before ties against France (on Thursday) and Switzerland (on Saturday). The top-two performing nations from that group advance to the elimination stage of the finals in November.
Expecting a tough challenge against the host nation, Kokkinakis will draw on another unforgettable Davis Cup experience when Australia meets Great Britain for the first time since the 2015 semifinals in Glasgow.
“Playing against GB last time in Glasgow was a crazy atmosphere,” said the South Australian. “That’s something that was very different to what I’d experienced before. I’m curious to see if it’s going to be similar this time around.”
High-pressure matches like the one he played against Andy Murray, ranked world No.3 at the time, are occasions that Kokkinakis cherishes.
“That atmosphere is something I’ll never forget,” he added. “I think it was a smaller sort of stadium with a closed roof, so it got super loud.
“But I think whether the fans are going for or against you, having that sort of atmosphere is what you want to play in. It helps kind of get you going a little bit, adrenaline-wise and just it’s what excites you to play.”
Currently sitting at world No.74 in the rankings, Kokkinakis is similarly grateful to spend time with other Australians in the team setting. The 21 tour-level tournaments, including ATP Challengers, he’s contested so far this year are the most in his 10 years as a professional player.
“I’d like to obviously have more of a break, I think every tennis player would,” he commented.
“There’s some weeks where you enjoy it more than others, but it has been good trying to compete week-in, week-out and just doing as well as you can and trying to enjoy the battle and the process of it.”
As one of nine Australian men currently ranked inside the world’s top 100, there’s another boost in being a part of the nation’s growing dominance on the global tennis tours.
“I think we’re hitting a very good patch for Australian tennis,” said Kokkinakis, noting the options it provides in the Davis Cup setting. “A lot of good players, a lot of options for Lleyton to kind of choose from, and line-ups to go with but yeah, all the guys are doing really well. They’re pushing each other.”
With team camaraderie strong, this week in Manchester provides another opportunity to build on some special memories.
“It’s good having these sorts of numbers,” he added. “It’s exciting times ahead and hopefuly we can keep it up.”