Losing teen Thanasi Kokkinakis hailed future star
IT is rare that a loser in a qualifying tournament is lauded but anyone who witnessed Thanasi Kokkinakis in action at Melbourne Park yesterday will attest he is a rising star of Australian tennis.
The 16-year-old first displayed his outlandish talents when stepping in for the injured John Isner at last week's Hopman Cup in Perth. Although he played only an exhibition match against Fernando Verdasco, the former Australian Open semi-finalist was stunned by the South Australian's power.
"The serve that he has is ... professional, it's like much better than many professionals," Verdasco said.
"He will be like a great player if he can keep going like that. He's so young ... but like I said, he has unbelievable serves for his age and also a very good forehand and backhand."
His qualifying debut at grand slam level yesterday against American Stevie Johnson was entertaining both in scoreline and in the tennis produced.
Johnson is a two-time collegiate champion for the University of Southern California who reached the third round of the US Open in August, further testament to the Australian teenager's ability.
While Kokkinakis fell 6-4 6-7 (5) 17-15, he showed great poise to break Johnson's serve at 5-4 in the third set and then to stave off break point opportunities later in the set before fatiguing late in a match lasting well over three hours. That the Australian was tired is hardly surprising given the third set alone lasted 2hr 7m.
It prompted Darren Cahill, who has coached former world No 1s Andre Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt, to praise Kokkinakis.
"Really impressive young man. Looking forward to watching his progress in the coming years," Cahill tweeted.