Aussie teen Thanasi Kokkinakis is keen
TENNIS: Thanasi Kokkinakis has been coached by Todd Langman since he was a seven-year-old kid growing up in Adelaide. But the confident 17-year-old is about to get the most valuable tennis lesson of his life.
After a courageous 7-6 0-6 7-6 6-2 first round win against Dutchman Igor Sijsling, Kokkinakis will today take on world No.1 Rafael Nadal during the middle of what is expected to be another scorching afternoon at the Australian Open.
Despite the enormity of the challenge, Kokkinakis pointed to his match against Lleyton Hewitt at the recent Brisbane International as an indication he would not be overawed.
"I'll go out there to win. I'm looking forward to the challenge," Kokkinakis said.
"I think I've had a couple of good experiences; qualifying in Brisbane, playing Lleyton on that big centre court there.
"I think it was all a good experience for me, just build up to play these moments."
The young South Aussie certainly enjoyed his first round win in Melbourne, following it with a lap of honour when he high-fived anyone and everyone in a show of sheer jubilation.
A player of Nadal's stature could be excused for not knowing a lot about Kokkinakis but the Spaniard supplied a glowing reference for his inexperienced opponent.
"He has a great future and will be a very tough match for me if I am not able to play my best," Nadal said.
The world No.1 expressed a similar sentiment before his first round match against another Aussie, Bernard Tomic.
That match ended after Nadal took the first set 6-4, Tomic retiring with a groin strain much to the disappointment of the crowd.
In an effort to clarify his decision to call it a night Tomic returned to Melbourne Park yesterday, with a doctor, and gave a second press conference where he said scans had shown he had a small tear in his groin that would sideline him for up to three weeks.
"It's not that big but if I had played on it would have been 10 times worse, they say, so I could have been out potentially for three, four months," the 21-year-old said.
"I'm very happy I stopped. It was the right call."
Tomic said he understood why some people in the crowd booed.
"A lot of people showed up, you know, expecting a very good match. A lot of people paid their tickets. It's disappointing for that to happen," he said.