Thanasi Kokkinakis has spoken out about the Nick Kyrgios ‘circus’ ahead of their clash at the US Open, admitting he doesn’t really know what to expect from his compatriot.
The Australian stars and doubles partners will go head-to-head for the first time in their professional careers on Monday night in New York (about 11am AEST) on centre court at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The all-Australian clash will take place after Serena Williams plays Danka Kovinic in what could be the final match of her illustrious singles career, with a sold-out crowd expected at the 23,771-seat stadium.
Finally, injury free and set to complete his first full grand slam season in seven years, Kokkinakis believes he has the weapons to upstage Kyrgios.
“I’m not just going to sit back and wait. I’ve got to be aggressive and play my game and hopefully it works for me,” the South Australian told AAP.
But Kokkinakis is fully aware that nothing will come easy against Kyrgios, well his colourful antics as well known as his powerful serve.
The 26-year-old said he won’t take the Kyrgios ‘circus’ personally, but is well-aware that things could get interesting.
“He loves to kind of live in the chaos a bit when it comes to matches. He turns it into a bit of a circus around him and he’s just so comfortable with that,” Kokkinakis said.
“He’s done it from such a young age. Even 12 and under, 13 and under nationals – I’ve known him for a while.
“But he’s got the game, obviously, to back it up. It’s not just that, so it will be awkward.”
Kyrgios previously said Kokkinakis is among the few rivals on tour with whom he wouldn’t “cross the line” on court because of their friendship.
But Kokkinakis says he understands what lies behind Kyrgios’ often explosive demeanour.
“I’ve seen him do it with a lot of close players he’s played on tour. That’s just him. It’s what makes him tick and what brings the best out of him with his tennis,” Kokkinakis said.
“So I’ve got to find what works for me the best on the day.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out, whether we’re going to come out a little flat or whether the energy’s intense.
“It will be weird. I don’t know – I honestly couldn’t say how it’s going to play out.”
Kyrgios and Kokkinakis to team up in doubles
Kyrgios beat Kokkinakis in the Australian Open junior boys final in 2013, but the ‘Special Ks’ will be clashing for the first time in the pro ranks on Monday night.
Kokkinakis said he and Kyrgios were practising next to each other when news filtered through that they would be first-round opponents.
“It was pretty nuts. I got tweeted at and thought that’s got to be wrong. It’s less than one per cent chance of drawing each other,” Kokkinakis said.
“So it’s pretty crazy how it turned out. It’s kind of surprising it hasn’t happened before to be honest. It’s a bit weird but we’ll go out and try and enjoy ourselves and have fun.”
The winner of Kyrgios and Kokkinakis will play the winner of the all-French match between Ugo Humbert and Benjamin Bonzi in the second round.
Five of the Special Ks’ compatriots are also in action on day one, including Australia’s men’s and women’s No.1s Alex de Minaur and Ajla Tomljanovic, as well as former US Open quarter-finalist John Millman and Jordan Thompson and Daria Saville.
After their singles clash, Kyrgios and Kokkinakis will once again team up in the doubles, chasing a third title in a remarkable season together after triumphing at the Australian Open in January and Atlanta Open in July.