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February 11, 2021

Thanasi Kokkinakis

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Press Conference

S. TSITSIPAS/T. Kokkinakis

6-7, 6-4, 6-1, 6-7, 6-4

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Obviously not the result you wanted, but four-and-a-half hours on Rod Laver Arena, talk us through the experience.

THANASI KOKKINAKIS: Yeah, it was incredible. It's been a long time -- I think the last match I played on there I was 17 against Nadal. That was my first Aussie Open and it's been a long time waiting. But, yeah, it's incredible.

Obviously I would have wished normal COVID away and full stands, but, no, I will take what I can get and just having that energy and that support again was tremendous. The court's unreal.

So, yeah, I just loved every minute of it, apart from the result (smiling).

Q. Playing at that level against a player of that quality, how did that feel? Feels like you're back where you belong sort of thing?

THANASI KOKKINAKIS: Yeah. I mean, matches like this are the reasons why -- and I thing I mentioned it in my last press, these are the reasons 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, because he's a hell of a player. Obviously got a bright future, and he's top 5, 6 in the game right now.

But, yeah, reasons like that and matches like that are why I think 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.

Q. Stef spoke glowingly of you and all your potential, said you can give people a very hard time in the future. Is that nice to hear from a man who is younger than you?

THANASI KOKKINAKIS: Yeah, doesn't feel like it, does it? Very nice. As I said, we get along off the court really well. We have had a fairly long relationship. I actually played an exhibition with him in Athens I think in 2015. He was still a junior and I thought back then, yeah, this guy is gonna be good.

So, yeah, we go a while back. Very nice to hear from him, and, yeah, I wish him all the best for the rest of the tournament. It's definitely good to hear.

As I said, I've got that belief in myself. I just need my body to keep holding up. I pulled up well, I think. Obviously tired, but I'm happy with how things are going.

Q. What was it like for you in the match? Were you trying to keep yourself on a certain level or even keel and at the same time the crowd is going nuts around you?

THANASI KOKKINAKIS: It's tricky because you don't want to waste too much energy getting too hyped, but sometimes it's hard to avoid that. I think when I won the first and fourth sets I tried to ride the energy. You have to soak it up, first and foremost.

That's what I tried to do, but that's the thing, that's what makes the good players where they are. They are composed under big moments. They can kind of pick their moments to get excited to get up and about. Playing at home, sometimes it's tough to control.

Q. How did your body hold up during the match? Looked like the first signs of you physically struggling right at the start of the fifth set or were you starting to feel it a bit earlier than that?

THANASI KOKKINAKIS: Yeah, look, was it the third set, the 6-1? Yeah, I struggled a little bit there, not gonna lie. Struggled a little bit in the second just because I haven't played that level for such a long period of time against such a quality player.

Like, I know my tennis is there, and that's the kind of frustrating thing a little bit, but you just need to stay and maintain that level over a consistent period of time. That's what he's done and that's why he's so good.

Yeah, definitely there. I was a little bit fatigued, I'm not gonna lie, throughout the whole last three sets. But I just tried to run off fumes and energy and just use the crowd and do I what I can.

Yeah, if I get a healthy year, I'll come 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. I'm just excited to what the year is ahead.

Q. Do you have any idea what you'll do now? I know obviously it's very early, but do you know what your schedule is going to look like? Do you head into a training block? What are you thinking?

THANASI KOKKINAKIS: Yeah, I think I will do a little bit of a training block before I head overseas. 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.

It's a little bit tricky. Obviously this year I don't want to go overseas and come back with a two-week quarantine, so I've got to pick my moments, because when I go overseas I've got to be ready to go the whole time.

But we'll see. I've got to sit down with my agents and coaches and decide what the schedule is gonna be. Hopefully I can play a lot of matches and build that ranking up to where I think it should be.

Q. Some of your best form came on clay in your career. How does that suit now with where your body is at?

THANASI KOKKINAKIS: My coach would love you saying that. He's been wanting me to go South America and just grind on clay for six years straight (smiling).

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.

Yeah, it's a different sort of game style, but if I can prove and play a lot of back-to-back clay court matches, then that holds me in good stead for all the other surfaces. I do think I play some of my best tennis on clay. It could end up being my best surface when I get right.

Q. You talked about the challenges in terms of heading into the year, but what does the uncertainty of not necessarily knowing what the schedule looks like with your ranking at the moment where it is, that's gonna add a degree of difficulty for you, isn't it?

THANASI KOKKINAKIS: It is tricky. I've got a couple protected rankings, but I've got to pick and choose when I want to use them. If anyone wants to give me a wildcard, thank you.

But, no, I'll just keep grinding away. If I have to keep playing quallies, I will do that. Definitely I think, as I said, I will prove I belong in main draws, and hopefully other people see that now too, and I can just keep pushing and have goods results, and hopefully I'm not talking to you about this question in 12 months' time.

Q. What is the aim? Have you set goals for this year? I know things are still so up in the air with tournaments and stuff like that and being able to travel, but have you set like a specific ranking target or a particular tournament?

THANASI KOKKINAKIS: I'm going to sound like a broken clock, but for me every year if I'm healthy the ranking will take care of itself, so for me it's to get a little bit fitter. 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 with tournaments, so that's my goal and stay healthy.

And then, I mean, if I'm healthy I feel like -- obviously my short-term goal is to be top 100 and go from there, because I think I can go a lot higher obviously than that.

But, yeah, just get back in the top 100, stay healthy. And it's a lot easier when you're there because then you can kind of pick and choose your schedules and the matches and the tournaments you're gonna play from there. That will make my job a lot easier when I get there.

Q. You were out there four-and-a-half hours. Was your head in the game the whole time, or did you ever allow yourself to take it in, have a look around and really just try and appreciate what was happening?

THANASI KOKKINAKIS: Yeah, no, you've got to enjoy it. There was a few times where the crowd erupted and I couldn't help but have a smile on my face, having that energy. I have missed it after so many years, not just in Australia but also other tournaments around the world I have missed the last few years.

I think you have to kind of take it in and enjoy it. Obviously having my friends and family out there watching me, they don't get that opportunity, either do I too much, having them there and supporting me.

You have to lap it up and take it in. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get over the line. But, yeah, I'm not too far off, which is good.

Q. Devastating to be missing out on the doubles tonight?

THANASI KOKKINAKIS: I would have enjoyed it. I actually pulled up better than I thought. If you told me before the day started, four-and-a-half hours, doubles later, I'd be, like, No, I'm in some strife. I wanted night match but I don't think I could because I had doubles later.

It's going to be fine. Hopefully Nick can get over the line tomorrow, and then I think we have doubles on Saturday. It's going to be good fun. He was going to have to carry me a little bit today. I would have been pretty tired. We'll see. Doubles with him is always an experience. It's good playing with a close mate.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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