Thanasi Kokkinankis published an honest column in Fox Sports about his relationship with Nick Kyrgios.
Kyrgios will play his first round in the Australian Open 2020 against Italian Lorenzo Sonego, tonight at 7pm.
Read Thanasi’s full article below:
“I can remember the first time I saw Nick clearly.
I was eight, he was nine, and there was this Kids Cup tournament in Canberra. We both won our regional tournaments, me in Adelaide and Nick in Canberra.
There was this big, fat kid everyone was talking about who hit the ball hilariously good, watched on by his dad who was decked out in full Jordan gear. And Nick was pretty much what you see now. All the antics, he was that kid.
He always had the bomb serve, huge forehand, really good backhand but he wouldn’t move a lick. He’s pretty much do everything but move but he was that much stronger than the other kids — he’d make them move. It was like a man playing against kids.
Both being half Greek we had that little bond.
We were both top of our age groups so we’d get selected to travel overseas and just clicked. We’d room together, always hit with each other and shared a lot of the same interests. Those overseas trips we’d stay up and play Counterstrike together ‘til 5am, he’d have all these cans of tuna by the laptop, I’d have a loaf of bread and Nutella, those are the memories that stick with you.
He just loves to talk a bit of rubbish, play around. I think that’s why we clicked — so many tennis players especially when they are younger they are serious, super focused, we were just trying to have a bit of fun on trips. He’s super competitive. Everything you see on the court is driven by a super competitive natural pressure.
Most athletes hate to lose more than you love to win. And with Nick all that stuff is dealing with his own expectation.
A lot of players admit to not being in a match mentally the whole time. There’s so many things that come into your mind as a tennis player.
The amount of crap that comes into my head when I’m playing, irrelevant stuff and you lose focus. Plus, it’s easier to say you weren’t there the whole time, rather say you tried your guts out. It’s an ego thing.
With Nick, it’s strategy as well, to distract the opponent. Nick does two things really well; serve and, when he’s locked in, return. You see it happen – a player will get comfortable and Nick will all of a sudden jump to life again.
The locker room doesn’t view Nick as a bad guy. Opponents can end up going nuts against him, because Nick can turn it into a circus. As a person they think he’s a little crazy, not everyone’s cup of tea, but not everyone knows him and has the same interests as him.
He respects all the guys for their ability, but gets on with Federer and Murray really well because he respects them as people.
He does bite back though when there’s an opinion from, say, a former player who wasn’t as good as him, or someone without any credentials, and that’s fair enough.
I remember there was some footy guy who called out me when I had a grade 3 tear of a pectoral. This guy was telling me how I should hit my forehand and my footwork wasn’t right. I was like ‘mate, you have no idea’. And if Nick reads stuff like that, he’ll lose it.
We had a blow up once, playing basketball a six or seven years ago in Miami, and he was getting lippy and being a smart arse.
He laid into my coach and I stuck up for him and gave it back to Nick. Eventually we worked it out, and he knows when he’s in the wrong.
Nick goes through phases with training. He’ll never do what Nadal or Djokovic does, and if he did that maybe his body would break down.
It’s so individual. A road runner type of player who has to be incredibly fit to make a lot of balls to have a chance, they have to work harder than Nick, who has so much easy power, reads the game so well, he just doesn’t need as many hours on court. But he does work when in the right frame of mind. I’ve done a lot of training blocks with him when he really engages and we both get plenty from it.
But nothing has changed since we were kids.
When there’s no pressure he’s one of my favourite guys to be around, chilling out and usually talking about our love of basketball. We both probably know more about the NBA than what’s going on in the tennis world.
We wouldn’t sit in front of a TV and watch tennis for ages but with basketball we could name the points per game, assists per game for the last 10 years, and our Whatsapp chat is all talking rubbish about the NBA.
On a personal note, I’m back in Adelaide after another setback. I’d prepared really well for the summer but got back to Adelaide after a training block and felt really flat.
I went and got my bloods done, and found I had Epstein-Barr virus, with my liver and spleen damaged.
My throat was so inflamed I couldn’t breath while sleeping, so I went into hospital and had to wait for the swelling to go down. Had the tonsils and adenoids out, lost 10 kilos and now I can’t rush back. It’s going to be tough to be out for a while. I might even pick up a subject at uni to help with the boredom.
But I will be watching a fair bit of the Open, especially Nick to see how he gets on. I know full well, anything could happen.”