Kokkinakis: 'Matches Like This Are Why I Keep Believing'
Australian falls to fifth seed Tsitsipas in five sets
Stefanos Tsitsipas beat Kokkinakis 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-4 over four hours and 32 minutes. It was his first match on the main show court at Melbourne Park since he was a bright-eyed 17-year-old and came up against Rafael Nadal in 2017.
“It was incredible,” said Kokkinakis. “I will take what I can get and just having that energy and that support again was tremendous. The court's unreal. I just loved every minute of it, apart from the result.
“Matches like this are the reason why I believe I can still do it and why I have tried to come back so many times and keep giving myself a chance… If I can just keep getting in better shape physically and keep being able to play matches there is no reason I can't be where he is.
“That's what I'm going for. I've got a long way to go, a lot of work to do, but I think today proved to me – and a few other people – that I have still got it in me. I'm going to try to use this as motivation and keep kicking forward.”
Kokkinakis' catalogue of setbacks, since rising to No. 69 in the FedEx ATP Rankings in June 2015, meant he hasn’t got a clothing sponsor at the Australian Open and wore $6 tee-shirts from Kmart for his matches. But the 24-year-old played well above his current position of No. 267.
“If I get a healthy year, I'll come in [here in] 12 months’ time and I'll be in much better shape and hopefully have a lot more matches under my belt with a higher ranking,” said Kokkinakis. “I'm just excited for the year ahead.
“I have shown I've got to do a little bit more work and get in a bit better shape to compete with these guys playing day-in and day-out at tournaments. So that's my goal and [to] stay healthy… If I'm healthy, I feel like my short-term goal is to be Top 100 and go from there, because I think I can obviously go a lot higher than that.”
“I think I will do a little bit of a training block before I head overseas,” said Kokkinakis. “The way I have pulled up, I'm stoked with that, and obviously matches are better than anything. But there are a few things I need to try and do before I go overseas. [My coach has] been wanting me to go South America and just grind on clay for six years straight.
“I do not mind the free points I get on a hard court as well. That's why I'm tossing it up. That could definitely be a play. It's also good to build the resilience in the body and go into the clay. There is definitely a chance of that.
“I've got a couple of protected rankings, but I've got to pick and choose when I want to use them. If anyone wants to give me a wild card, thank you!”