© Bianca Giannone

Thanasi Kokkinakis and Chris Paul ahead of Tuesday's night Phoenix Suns game.

Kokkinakis Takes In Suns' Game, Meets Hero Chris Paul

The World No. 94 is competing at this week's Phoenix Challenger

Thanasi Kokkinakis upset fifth seed Jiri Lehecka in straight sets Tuesday at the Arizona Tennis Classic. A few hours after the Aussie’s victory, he attended the Phoenix Suns vs. Milwaukee Bucks NBA game.

The 26-year-old has been a longtime fan of the NBA and most notably the Suns’ point guard Chris Paul.

“I pretty much follow Chris Paul wherever he goes. He’s my favourite player. Until he retires, I’ll stick with him,” Kokkinakis told ATPTour.com. “I saw him play when I was younger for Team USA and New Orleans and I just liked the way he played. He wasn’t someone that was a lot of people’s favourite player, I wanted to go a little different from the mainstream. He’s real smooth, real smart.

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“We had the same agency a while back, so I’ve met him a few times. We keep in touch on social media sometimes. It’s pretty cool, he’s a nice guy. Him and Tracy McGrady were my favourites.”

Kokkinakis attended the game alongside his coach Todd Langman and countryman Alexei Popyrin, who also earned a first-round victory at the Phoenix Challenger on Tuesday. The Bucks, who are leading the NBA’s Eastern Conference, defeated the Suns 116-104. Milwaukee’s forward Giannis Antetokounmpo finished as the leading scorer with 36 points.

“Giannis actually followed me on Instagram in January, I think it was after the [Andy] Murray match [at the Australian Open],” Kokkinakis said. “One of my mates, Joe Ingles, is actually playing for Milwaukee as well. Pretty bummed that Kevin Durant is injured but still a lot of good players.”

From left to right: <a href='https://www.atptour.com/en/players/alexei-popyrin/p09z/overview'>Alexei Popyrin</a>, <a href='https://www.atptour.com/en/players/thanasi-kokkinakis/kd46/overview'>Thanasi Kokkinakis</a>, Joe Ingles, <a href='https://www.atptour.com/en/players/todd-langman/l871/overview'>Todd Langman</a>.
From left to right: Alexei Popyrin, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Joe Ingles, Todd Langman. Credit: Bianca Giannone

A passionate and fiery player on the court, Kokkinakis likes to stay relaxed away from tennis and enjoy any downtime he gets.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been to an NBA game, I went around the Miami Open last year,” Kokkinakis said. “The tennis tour is pretty full on, so whenever we get a bit of spare time and go out and do something, I try to make the most of it. For me, trying to do as many things off court will make my time on tour better.”

In episode one of the Netflix series Break Point, fans are given an inside look of Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios’ doubles title run at the 2022 Australian Open. When the Aussies aren’t playing tennis, you can find the close mates enjoying their fair share of NBA banter.

“He’s a big Celtics fan, they have a legit shot this year. They’ve got a very good team,” Kokkinakis said. “I’m a big Suns fan, so they could match up in the NBA Finals. We talk a lot of [trash], we’ve roomed together for ages so we watch a lot of basketball together.”

Kokkinakis will next be in action Thursday at the Phoenix Challenger against Pavel Kotov or Jan-Lennard Struff.

ATP Challenger Tour