Rafael Nadal Stops Young Aussie Kokkinakis to move into Third Round

Nadal waves and smiles

By Alana Mitchelson

(January 16, 2014) MELBOURNE – Rafael Nadal put an end to young hopeful Thanasi Kokkinakis’ Australian Open debut on Thursday night in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2, but the 17-year-old Australian has nothing to be ashamed of.


The final score did little to reflect Kokkinakis’ fair game, which was weakened by a somewhat lacking return of service and his less experienced game mentality. This became especially apparent when it came to taking control of critical points or breaking serve to stay in the match.


Even the world No. 1 himself was impressed by Kokkinakis’ form, acknowledging the true potential evolving in this young athlete who is only just beginning to forge his career on the ATP tour.


​”When you are a young player, the main goal is to keep improving in all aspects,” Nadal said encouragingly.


“He has a great serve for a 17-year-old… ​he will be serving better and better every year. He has a good forehand. If he is able to improve with being humble, being around the right people that don’t make you feel like you are a star before the right time, he will have the chance to be a great player. That’s my feeling. He has everything to do it.


“Kokkinakis is one of these ones that can be there in the next couple of years.”


After dominating the first set with curving, top spin loaded forehands, Nadal did allow his game to slip a little in the second which handed Kokkinakis some opportunities to pressure the Spaniard’s serve.


While the Australian lifted his aggression at such times, he faltered at all too crucial moments, as Nadal’s deep drives consistently clipped the chalk at the baseline throughout rally points, the ball ricocheting up into the teenager’s body as he tried to quickly re-adjust his positioning to find range on the ball.


​”I thought he played really well early. I mean, if you don’t get it deep to him, he just runs you around the court,” Kokkinakis explained of his experience having played the world No. 1, one of his tennis idols.


“There’s that balance of trying to get it deep. And then if you hit it too short, he’s moving you around. Then you go for too much and that creates errors. That’s why he’s so good.


“I think he was serving something like 75% first serves. It moves a lot. Although it’s not huge power, it’s definitely awkward to return.


​”Just physically, he’s a beast. I’ve obviously got a way to go to get that strong and fit… He just does everything well. I was just trying to be aggressive and see where I could kind of create errors and hit winners. These experiences show the level you need to get to.”


With nothing to lose and everything to gain, the Aussie teenager gave the second set his best shot. He made just 15 unforced errors, one less Nadal’s 16, but failed to manage a single break on the Grand Slam champion as the match drew to an abrupt close.


Nadal was happy to have powered through another quick as he progresses into the third round of the Australian Open 2014 and was content with his overall performance.


“I think I played a great first set – not many mistakes, serving well, finishing the set playing aggressive with my forehand.


​”The second set I didn’t play as good as I played the first. I stopped a little bit. I played with less intensity. Playing with less intensity equals more mistakes and that’s what happened. It was important that the serve was there during the whole match. And, in my opinion, in the third set I finished the match playing well again, good forehands down the line. That’s given me a lot last year, so it’s the way to keep improving.”


Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website.


Kyrgios and Konjuh Win Australian Open Junior Singles Titles


By Jaclyn Stacey

(January 26, 2013) MELBOURNE PARK, Australia – Nick Kyrgios has been crowned the 2013 Australian Open Junior Boys’ champion after overpowering good friend and fellow Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis 7-6(4) 6-3 in one hour and 31 minutes on Saturday afternoon at Melbourne Park.


“Yeah, obviously I’m really happy with that performance today. I knew that I had to play some really good tennis,” Kyrgios said. “So, yeah, it’s great start on the year.”


The two mixed up their play, hitting largely from the baseline but also willing to try a drop shot and come into the net to volley. Both played a largely aggressive offensive game with big groundstroke shotmaking.


It was a tight contest in the first set with neither player able to gain an advantage. Kokkinakis had several break point opportunities late in the set but Kyrgios was able to effectively shut them down with his big serve. The set culminated in a tie-break situation as neither player was able to get a lead. Kyrgios got the mini-break in the first point of the tie-break and ran with it, closing out the first set 7-6(4).


Kyrgios converted a break point opportunity in the fourth game of the second set to go ahead a set and a break 3-1 against his good friend. Kokkinakis was struggling with a back problem during the match and it looked to be getting to him as time wore on. Kyrgios then picked up his serve in his final game to win the tournament with an ace 7-6(4) 6-3 in the same week he became the ITF world number one junior. He produced 36 winners to Kokkinakis’ 20.


Kyrgios said the key to winning today had been to maintain composure and not get caught in the moment. He explained his thoughts on being down break points and set points in the first set: “I was just trying to stay as composed as I could and take my time. I thought I played the big points

well. I didn’t really get angry at myself leading into that point or anything like that.”


Kyrgios was asked what he will do to ensure he doesn’t fade into oblivion as many former Junior Australian Open champions have done in the past.


“Obviously going to keep working hard, day in, day out. That’s what it’s all about. Keep improving on and of the court. I’m going to try and play a lot more futures and challengers and boost my ATP ranking up as well.”


“Obviously I’m going to take a lot of confidence out of this. Still a long way to go, it’s a long journey, anything can happen, but right now I’m really happy. I’m just going to keep working hard.”


In the girl’s singles final Croatian number three seed Ana Konjuh signalled herself as a future star in women’s tennis after defeating Czech number two seed Katerina Siniakova 6-3 6-4 in just over one hour.


“Well, you know, I feel really great. I won doubles and singles. I’m first time here. Just the feeling is incredible.”


Konjuh also won the girls’ doubles title on Friday with Canadian Carol Zhao to cap off an impressive tournament for the young Croatian. The win in the singles will move Konjuh to the top of the ITF Junior rankings from Monday.


Konjuh says she’s happy to be the world number one but says her focus for 2013 will be to improve her WTA ranking.


“I’m going to play the junior Grand Slams: Roland Garros, Wimbledon, US Open. I’m just going to play 10,000’s, 25’s and 50’s. I just want to go now for WTA ranking.”


Konjuh has also been selected to represent Croatia in Fed Cup for the first time and will play alongside Petra Martic, Donna Vekic and Tereza Mrdeza.


“No, it’s another great experience. I’m going to get a chance to play with some pro players. I just happy to be there.”


Jaclyn Stacey is a Melbourne based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open tournament as media for Tennis Panorama News.  Follow her Australian Open updates on @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal twitter @JackattackAU.


Kyrgios and Kokkinakis set up All-Aussie Junior Boys’ Final at the Australian Open


By Jaclyn Stacey


(January 25, 2013) MELBOURNE PARK, Australia – Newly crowned ITF Junior Boys’ world No. 1 Nick Kyrgios stormed into the Australian Open Junior Boys’ final after dominating eighth seed Filippo Baldi 6-2, 6-1 in just 41 minutes on Friday.


“Obviously I’m really stoked with that performance today, I knew Baldi has been playing some pretty good tennis to make it to the semifinal and I knew I had to stick to my game plan,” Kyrgios said. “I like to come out strong, show a bit of fire in the first couple of games, show them that I’m there and that I’m going be tough to beat.”


Kyrgios was devastating in the win, sending down 9 aces and winning 75% of first serves in play against the Italian. The 17-year-old Australian will play compatriot Thanasi Kokkinakis in the first All-Australian junior final since Ben Ellwood defeated Andrew Ilie in the 1994.


The unseeded Kokkinakis defeated eleventh seed Borna Coric 6-3, 6-2 in just over one hour and the win caps off an unforgettable summer for the Adelaide teen. Kokkinakis was in Perth for the Hopman Cup as a reserve for Bernard Tomic but found himself as a substitute for the injured John Isner in the US team who took on Spain in their round robin contest. Kokkinakis came within three points of taking a set off Fernando Verdasco and also teamed with Venus Williams in the mixed doubles.


Kyrgios and Kokkinakis know each others’ games well and consider themselves good friends. They also teamed up to play the Australian Open Junior Doubles competition where they lost in the quarterfinals. Most recently they squared off in the National 18 and under championships final at Melbourne Park in December with Kyrgios the victor in a tight three set match.


In the Girls’ singles, second seed Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic defeated Estonian tenth seed Anett Kontaveit in straight sets 6-2, 6-3 in just under one hour. The Czech will meet the third seed Ana Konjuh of Croatia in the final who overcame a resurgent Elizaveta Kulichkova in a three set battle 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.


The Boys’ and Girls’ doubles champions were also decided on Friday with the Australian combo of Jay Andrijic and Bradley Mousley triumphant 6-3 7-6(3) over the German/Austrian pairing of Maximilian Marterer and Lucas Miedler in the Boy’s competition. In the girls’ competition singles finalist Ana Konjuh partnered with Canadian Carol Zhao to defeat the Ukrainian/Czech pairing of Oleksandra Korashvili and Barbora Krejcikova 5-7, 6-3, (10-7)


Jaclyn Stacey is a Melbourne based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open tournament as media for Tennis Panorama News.  Follow her Australian Open updates on @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal twitter @JackattackAU.