Kokkinakis Hopefully Set to Make ATP Return After 15-Month Absence

Young gun to compete in Australian Open singles draw after complicated recovery,/h2.

While the main storyline of the upcoming Australian Open is the return of Roger Federer to an official tournament after a seven month hiatus, the Swiss maestro is not the only player seeking to make a triumphant comeback.

Enter Thanasi Kokkinakis, the Adelaide native with Greek roots. Unless the injury bug bites him  again, The 20-year-old will be aiming to collect his first ATP singles points since October 2015 at Melbourne Park.

Even if his raw numbers (11 main draw wins in 19 tour level events) may suggest otherwise, the Aussie had a sensational campaign in 2015. He boasted an outstanding 14-2 record in qualifying draws and cruised to victory in the lone Challenger he played, in Bordeaux (France). In other words, Kokkinakis proved he belonged in tennis’ first tier as an 18-year-old. That is no small feat nowadays.

Toward the end of the season, his results started to slip. After cramps sabotaged a superb effort against a red-hot Richard Gasquet in Flushing Meadows, the youngster hit a rookie wall. The mental burnout was evident. Arguably his most exciting moment post-US Open was the interview he gave to the Stockholm Open media.

Fast forward to the 3:20 minute mark for the highlight.

-Interviewer: What do you know about Sweden? Is it a monarchy or a republic?

-Kokkinakis: I got no idea about Sweden. What I know is it’s a nice place, [there are] a lot of good looking girls and one of my favorite soccer players, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, is from here. I like watching him play.

The kid urgently needed to press the reset button. A couple weeks off followed by an intense preparation leading up to the Australian summer, when he would be poised for a full breakout party.

On paper, that plan sounded perfect. Unfortunately for the rising prospect, injuries have derailed his career ever since.

Firstly, he underwent shoulder surgery, which sidelined him until the Rio Olympics. Taking the extended absence into account, Kokkinakis gave a commendable effort against Gastao Elias, losing a tight 7-6 7-6 duel.

Later in August, the former junior standout was going to make his 2016 ATP debut versus Mikhail Youzhny at the Winston-Salem Open. However, he tore his pectoral muscle and had to be replaced by a lucky loser.

Trying to stay in shape during rehab, according to an interview with The Daily Telegraph, the former World No. 69 hurt his groin while running, delaying the process even further.

A huge step forward was taken last week in Brisbane, when a makeshift duo featuring Kokkinakis and Jordan Thompson went on tear and hoisted the doubles trophy, defeating accomplished tandems such as Pierre-Hughes Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, along with Daniel Nestor and Edouard Roger-Vasselin along the way.

Coincidentally, the two Aussies were slated to square off against each other in Sydney’s first round singles. Nevertheless, Kokkinakis had to pull out due to abdominal discomfort.

At the time of writing, Kokkinakis still shows up on the Australian Open list. Third time is the charm, isn’t it? I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

The ATP Next Gen Finals in Milan seems like a distant target, but as long as he’s healthy, do not rule out the now unranked Kokkinakis to secure a spot in his last year of eligibility.

Protected Ranking

If Kokkinakis is good to go, he will be using benefiting from the protected ranking clause like Jerzy Janowicz, Dmitry Tursunov, Tommy Robredo, and… Tommy Haas! (Who said dinosaurs were extinct?)

How does this provision exactly work?

In short, if an ATP player is physically unable to compete for a minimum of six months, he is eligible to submit an application to use his average ranking of the first 13 weeks he’s been injured for at most nine events.

For more precise information, check out the 2017ATP Rulebook.
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