If there is a silver lining in Thanasi Kokkinakis’ semi-final defeat at the Adelaide International, it is that he might enjoy greater success at the Australian Open as a result.
The hometown hero’s inspired title defence came to an end with a brave three-set loss to world No.26 Roberto Bautista Agut at a packed Memorial Drive on Friday night.
The result halted a captivating run by the 26-year-old that included a win over world No.6 Andrey Rublev, with his big serving, powerful groundstrokes and aggressive approach absorbing to watch.
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As much as Kokkinakis adores his hometown tournament, its proximity to his home Grand Slam that kicks off at Melbourne Park on Monday isn’t ideal.
After holding aloft his maiden ATP Tour trophy after Saturday night’s final last year, Kokkinakis had to hotfoot it to Melbourne on Sunday then lost his first-round match against German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann on Monday.
While frustrated to bow out in Adelaide after he bettered the veteran Spaniard in most statistics, Kokkinakis will have the luxury of three days to prepare for Tuesday’s first-round encounter with Italian world No.57 Fabio Fognini.
“Hopefully I can use those days to an advantage,” Kokkinakis said.
“It’s hard playing every day … I’ve had some battles against good players.
“I’ll use (those) days wisely, get used to the conditions in Melbourne and give it a red-hot crack there.
“Coming from (Adelaide) to the Aussie Open last time, (the courts) were a lot slower, so it took a bit to get used to conditions, but now I’ve got a couple days, so hopefully I can acclimatise and play some good ball.”
Kokkinakis, currently ranked No.110 in the world, displayed admirable dare and intensity to defeat countryman Alexei Popyrin (ranked 113), Rublev (6) and Miomir Kecmanovic (28) on his way to the semi-final in Adelaide.
His intent is to replicate that form to progress in the singles draw in Melbourne, but he will also renew his partnership with good mate Nick Kyrgios, who he won a surprise Australian Open doubles title with last year.
“We’ll play, but if I told you I think we’re going to defend the title I’d be lying,” Kokkinakis said.
“We only thought about winning it (last year), to be honest, pretty much in the quarters onwards when we were both out of singles.
“We’re going to try and do as well as we can in singles, doubles is a bonus, hopefully our bodies hold up.
“I wasn’t coming into this year thinking I’ve got to defend my doubles title.
“I wasn’t expecting to achieve much in doubles, I don’t feel like I need to do anything more in doubles, I want to build my singles career.”
Originally published as Star admits harsh truth about Special Ks’ Aus Open title defence