Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Thanasi Kokkinakis says his best tennis is ahead of him but can't say how long he'll go for. Image by Darren England/AAP PHOTOS
  • tennis

Kokkinakis hints at future as Nadal touches down

Murray Wenzel December 28, 2023

Thanasi Kokkinakis is finally fit and confident his best tennis is still to come. 

But the 27-year-old isn’t sure how much longer he can do it for.

The South Australian is ranked a career-high 65 in the world entering his 12th year as a professional.

Most of those campaigns have been limited or completely written off by a wide range of injuries, thwarting the progress of a talent that showed his potential in a 2018 defeat of world No.1 Roger Federer.

“My best tennis is ahead of me but how long I’ll play, I don’t know,” he admitted before jumping on a boat in Brisbane with his Australian counterparts on Thursday.

“A lot of guys are like robots that love playing week in, week out everywhere and that’s the bit I struggle with.

“But in tennis years I’m feeling 22, 23 and still have my best tennis ahead.

“It’s just about trying to lock in for whatever’s left in my career.”

The likelihood of several late withdrawals means Kokkinakis, who missed a wildcard, is unsure whether he’ll have to qualify or still earn an 11th hour call-up to the Brisbane International main draw from Sunday.

NAdal
 Rafael Nadal has missed almost a year of tennis due to a hip injury. Image by Darren England/AAP PHOTOS 

Rafael Nadal, who practised in Brisbane for the first time on Thursday, will make his return from injury at a tournament that hasn’t been staged in four years.

The Spaniard, 37 and a 22-time major champion, hasn’t played for almost a year following hip surgery.

Now ranked 670 in the world, he looked sharp and won’t fly under the radar, with Australian world No.40 Alexei Popyrin declaring on Thursday he’s “expecting him to win the tournament, to be honest”.

Andy Murray lurks in the draw too, with Kokkinakis keen to avoid him after losing a five hour, 45 minute Australian Open epic that finished at 4am in January.

Kokkinakis then won a similarly tense French Open five-setter against Stan Wawrinka, before losing a third-round tussle with Karen Khachanov in another match that left the Australian mulling missed opportunities.

“I’m sick of that guy, I don’t want to see him,” Kokkinakis joked of Murray.

“If I had lost that match again at the French with Stan after losing the one with Andy you probably wouldn’t see me here … that’s giving me nightmares still.”

Thanasi Kokkinakis
 Thanasi Kokkinakis (right) will partner Alexei Popyrin (middle back) in doubles this year. Image by Darren England/AAP PHOTOS 

With Nick Kyrgios injured, Kokkinakis confirmed he will partner Alexei Popyrin in the Australian Open doubles next month.

He hopes his mate will be back on the court soon and is eager to “run it back” after they stormed to an enthralling 2022 Australian Open doubles title.

“I’ll be with the tall, lanky ostrich in the corner, Alexei,” Kokkinakis said, before inviting media to coin a nickname for the new pairing.

“Hopefully he (Nick) gets back healthy.

“You never know with injuries. I’ve had my fair share and a lot of times when you miss a lot of time a lot of other little niggles come back.

“I’m not sure when that will be, I know he’s doing everything he can.”