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Kokkinakis savouring his tennis revival

Wanted. A new hero for Australian tennis in the post-Ash Barty era.

Just don’t expect one obvious candidate, Thanasi Kokkinakis, to apply for the job.

Because he’s been there. Done that. And now it’s time for him to just be as good as he can be.

“Look, I’m not trying to not put too much pressure on myself as far being the next big thing coming out of Australia,” says Kokkinakis, when asked by AAP if he felt he still had the star power to get Australian tennis all a flutter.

“I’ve seen how that goes. One minute, you’re a star and then for five years you’re all washed up – I know how it works!

“And I’m not worried about it too much – I’m just going to keep trying to play and to keep improving.”

Not that the 26-year-old hasn’t appreciated the goodwill and glowing publicity that’s surrounded his feelgood tennis resurrection.

Kokkinakis, remember, was the boy wonder, the Roger Federer slayer, the boom-boom Adelaide tyro who seemed as if he could be anything he wanted to be in tennis until the dreaded injuries came, drip by drip, to deliver those ‘washed up’ years.

So his rejuvenation at the turn of the year was a thrill for everyone – not least himself.

“Massively..Massively!” he enthuses, when asked if he feels his career has been given a kiss of life.

“The start of this year was everything for me.

“The semi-final (in Adelaide), then winning (a title) at home for the first time (the following week), then winning the doubles with Nick (Kyrgios) at the Australian Open, it definitely sparked my career back – and then some.

“I also made my equal-best result in a Masters (reaching the fourth round in Miami) after that. I really couldn’t have asked for anything more.

“I’d said it was going to be my last year on tour unless something happened – then I had those two tournaments under my belt in January, it’s kind of everything to me.

“I thought I’ll have time to enjoy my tennis a bit more but the balance is not to get complacent and try to set new goals and keep myself motivated, because I know how big a fight it was just to get back to this point, and now I’m going to try to do my best to keep it going.”

Which brings us to Roland Garros, where the teenage Kokkinakis reached the third round back in 2015 and is now looking for an even better run, starting on Sunday as one of the first Australians in action against Spain’s tough clay-courter Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

“My game suits clay really well. I always came in a little bit underdone (for Roland Garros), not quite ready – but feel good this year,” he says.

Kokkinakis had a striking win over Fabio Fognini in Geneva last week and Sydneysider Alexei Popyrin, fresh from an impressive win in a Challenger event in Bordeaux, will attempt to repeat the dose against the 34-year-old Italian maverick.

First Australian on duty will be wildcard Chris O’Connell, up against Slovenian Aljaz Bedene, and he’ll be followed later on court 8 by Astra Sharma, the only Aussie woman in action.



Chris O’Connell (wildcard) v Aljaz Bedene (Slo)

Alexei Popyrin v Fabio Fognini (Ita)

Thanasi Kokkinakis v Albert Ramos-Violas (Esp)

Jason Kubler (qualifier) v Denis Kudla (USA)


Astra Sharma v Varvara Gracheva (Rus)

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