Tuesday 22 August 2017 / 08:55 PM

Aussie tennis hails another ‘Special K’

He’s supposedly the lesser half of the Special Ks, but for how long?

Thanasi Kokkinakis may not have the profile of partner-in-crime Nick Kyrgios yet, but that could all be just about to change.

 

Twelve months ago, the dynamic duo was considered neck-and-neck in their pursuit of higher honours as they took the tennis world by storm.

 

Kyrgios then rudely trumped some bloke named Rafael Nadal at the All England Club, leaving his poor mate in the wilderness in the process.

 

Save for heartbreaking losses in Grand Slam qualifiers last year though, including one in which he had a match point in the final round of the French variety, the man they call ‘The Kok’ might well have been on a similar path already.

 

But thanks to a breakthrough performance against the admittedly erratic yet immensely talented Ernests Gulbis, incidentally a semi finalist at Roland Garros himself in 2014, it is now Kokkinakis with his name up in lights.

 

And deservedly so. 

 

The explosive teenager showed tremendous clutch against the world No.13 from Latvia on Show Court 3 yesterday, and it is not hard to see why many are predicting a watershed year for the likeable youngster.

 

On the flipside, Kyrgios was effectively playing second fiddle as he simultaneously struggled past unheralded Argentine Federico Delbonis over on Margaret Court Arena.

 

“I think when I saw him win on the scoreboard, (it) gave me a little bit of motivation. That’s what having a good relationship with him has done,” Kyrgios mused.

 

“Yeah, as soon as I saw him win and the crowd got really behind him on my court, I was just real happy for him.”

 

Kokkinakis was busy entertaining his own crowd, taking it all in his stride – complete with a customary lap of honour befitting his newfound status.

 

“It was exciting. I know it was a good win. There’s more to come,” the 18-year-old South Australian assured.

 

“I don’t want to win just one round. Obviously it was my best win yet.”

 

Maybe even a breakout slam beckons for ‘The Kok’, much like Kyrgios’ own run to the quarter-finals at Wimbledon last year.

 

“I’m proud of Thanasi because he’s dealing with things as well. That’s a massive win for him,” Kyrgios added.

 

“That’s his first I guess nearly top 10 win, so I’m happy for him.”

 

A fascinating second-round encounter against compatriot Sammy Groth awaits Kokkinakis next up, the big server himself coming in on the back of a career-best year and a ridiculously comfortable victory in Brisbane against Lleyton Hewitt a mere two weeks ago.

 

Groth arguably even goes in to this one as slight favourite, but you sense he will need every bit of his renewed temperament to put paid to the young upstart.

 

“I’m going to see a few go past me,” Kokkinakis joked.

 

“But I’m going to try to make it difficult for him, put it in spots where he doesn’t like it, and hopefully when the big moment comes I’m ready to take the opportunity and step up.”

 

As for Kyrgios, the 19-year-old faces his own stiff test in giant-serving Croatian Ivo Karlovic.

 

But who knows?

 

‘The Kok’ could just be on the verge of becoming the more ‘Special K’.

 

Either way, we can’t wait to find out.

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Scott Cooney

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