After qualifying for the main draw of the Miami Open, Thanasis Kokkinakis spoke about the pleasant memories he has from Miami, his goal to continue playing on the tour healthy, but also his condition, which he described as “a blessing and a curse”.
A few weeks ago, Thanasis Kokkinakis led Stefanos Tsitsipas to a five-set win at the Australian Open, before Stefanos’ long run to the semifinals in Melbourne. The Australian Open was the tournament in which Kokkinakis scored his first win on tour since August 2019. In Miami, with his two wins in the qualifying round, he will also play his first match in a Masters main draw event in three years.
“It’s a little bit different (to face Tsitsipas at the Australian Open), but for me the goal is still the same. I haven’t played for a long time, so every match is a good opportunity to go out there and show what I can do, get a good ranking again and build my confidence,” said Kokkinakis, who may have reached world No.69 at the age of 19, but is now ranked No.243.
His fall and lack of racing has set him back in another area as well, as he is without a clothing sponsor! As he revealed at the Australian Open, he bought a few $6 t-shirts, which he felt comfortable wearing in practice.
“It’s definitely hard, especially when you don’t earn money for two years. And now that I’m back for my first year, the prize money is quite reduced. I’m trying to look at it in a way that everything I’m doing now will help me next year. Hopefully next year things will get back to normal, the prize money will go back up and I’ll have a good chance of earning enough money to make a living. I was lucky to have that opportunity to play again, so I’m just trying to compete and stay healthy.”
In March 2018, when he had scored his last Masters 1000 tournament win, Kokkinakis had also celebrated one of the biggest successes of his career, beating Roger Federer in Miami.
“He was an older gentleman working here at the tournament, with a strong European accent, and he kept calling my name. He was one of the few people who supported me and was trying to tell me that a lot of fans hated him for doing that (in the Federer match).
I have a lot of respect for him. I always have good memories when I come to Miami. Obviously the venue is a little bit different now, just like the atmosphere is different without a lot of people, but I have to make the best out of it.”
With wins over Frederico Ferreira Silva and Mario Vilella Martinez in two sets, Kokkinakis moved into the main draw of the Miami Open, where he will face another qualifier, Japan’s Shintaro Mochizuki.
“Every injury is a big setback. You’re trying to regroup, keep fighting and the price is high. People don’t understand that unless they’re in a similar position. I feel lucky to be playing again and not taking anything for granted.
I’m a veteran in a sense because I understand how the tour works and I’ve spent some time on it. But at the same time, I haven’t played anywhere near as much tennis as other players my age have played, so I feel younger in that respect. It’s a blessing and a curse at the same time.”