Thanasi Kokkinakis is smiling a lot more these days and he is the most content he has been with for a very long time; The soon to be 26-year-old has a new lease on life.
It is rare for a professional tennis player to have all the promise and potential in the world to go through what he did with injuries and surgeries, and still want to keep up after every obstacle.
Adelaide of his hometown last January, all the hard work, all the comebacks and all the rehab were rewarded when he won his first career title. The tears streamed down his face as he looked around the center court at the Memorial Drive and soaked in the applause and marvelled at the standing ovation.
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This is what it was all about for him; Something he never tasted before, but many, including himself, expected him to go through the junior ranks.
Adelaide in January hosted back-to-back tournaments leading into the Australian Open. COVID-19 had a disrupted normal program, so this was a one-off schedule for players to get some warm-up matches.
“It’s pretty crazy to think about, but for Adelaide, I was stoked with the semi-final win (the first event), and I don’t know if anyone told me this, but I was tossing up. The following week, I wanted to be fresh at the Australian Open, ”Kokkinakis said.
“But I saw another opportunity to play another tour event and I know how few and far between tour events have been in the past few years.
“So, I thought it was good to be home at some point, and it turned out to be the best decision of my life. That’s a week I’ll never forget… I won my first tour title and did it in my home city.” “The best week of my career hands down.”
He has been to Kokkinakis for so much hard work it has taken. He came on the tour as an incredibly promising young player. His contemporaries include juniors such as Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios, his “bro” and best mate. He was getting the results but then his lanky body started to break down.
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It was after injury. There were the surgeries and the rehab. He would spend months off the tour, and one could be forgiven for thinking he was a television hospital drama. For three, four, five years, he should have been establishing himself, his tennis was sacrificed. Now, it’s not just about the physical side of things, but also the physical aspect and the professional aspect of any professional sport, if at all.
“It sure took a toll on me, a lot of doubts, a lot of thinking. I’m gonna get back to this point, is it worth it?” Said Kokkinakis.
“A lot of negative thoughts as well but there were some positive ones and they kept me going. I had some good memories at try and look back. body goes to plan and this is what I could do ‘, but still there were no guarantees.
“I didn’t know how my body was going to respond and it took a lot of hard work and a lot of years to get back and focus on where I could compete professionally, but surely there were Many times I was legitimately thinking about stopping. “
Kokkinakis clearly remembers a conversation in 2016 after shoulder surgery. He played one match, the Rio Olympics at which it happened, and he played “pretty much without a serve and a shoulder” but thought he would give things one last go.
During the 2017 Australian summer he and Jordan Thompson won the Brisbane doubles, but the injury hit again and there was no Australian Open for him. He tried to return to Lyon before Roland Garros, and it was an abysmal outcome and he said “really off the pace”.
Australian Open doubles final highlights: Kokkinakis / Kyrgios v Ebden / Purcell
“I felt like a fish out of water on the court and I told my coach I didn’t think it was for me. My body was not feeling great, I was feeling like an absolute shell. of myself as a player, “he said.
“But I had a protected ranking and thought at that point that I would play out these grand slams. A crack. If not, that’s probably it for me.
“Fortunately, I had a good match with (Kei) Nishikori at the French Open and that gave me some confidence and another good match with (Juan Martin) Del Potro at Wimbledon, and I thought ‘hang on with these guys.’ Barely any tennis so what’s going to happen when I start playing ‘.
Financially he was also very concerned. He is a physio and fitness trainer who can afford a decent amount of money because he reserves the right to make money while playing. What helped him was a little sought-after by a junior he had some contracts and then a few hundred dollars, but many times his ledger was highlighted.
Still, there was something in Thanasi Kokkinakis that allowed him to maintain the ultimate belief in himself and his family behind his dream, and he kept trying.
He could be thinking for forgiveness “Why me?” But he never really considered it. He is not unique with injuries, but he is not in a good position to be happy or in the position of what he is thinking.
Davis Cup Finals through Australia
“At the end of the day, I told myself I can’t do this forever, but I’ll see how I go for the next few years. If it’s looking promising, I’ll give it a crack, if not, I Maybe find something else, “Kokkinakis said.
January 2022 has shown he will be around for a while. He has had a second, third and fourth chance to do what he loves more than anything else and his smile and mischievous attitude are back. Kyrgios said that. His peers like to have an infectious laugh with tennis in the funniest and quick-witted guys around him.
Asked what he would like to achieve, Thanasi Kokkinakis said: “Honestly? I’ve achieved it.” There is no doubt he wants to have a long term in any regrets.
“I wanted to win a title and to do it at home is pretty nuts.” played my first Davis Cup tie in seven years and won the deciding rubber, ”Kokkinakis said with a hint of emotion.
“It’s been pretty f — ing nuts at the start of the year. To be honest Craig, I’ve achieved a lot of what I wanted to do.
“I wanted to be in the top 100 before the end of the year, that was my goal coming into the year; I did that in two weeks in Adelaide. I’m really happy.
“I don’t feel like playing with house money, but I feel more content with myself. I feel more comfortable with myself. I don’t feel like I have much to prove.” “I’m very happy to come back and do more, more and more. I’m just happy to see how well I can go and see what happens.”
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