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January 16, 2014

Thanasi Kokkinakis


R. NADAL/T. Kokkinakis
6‑2, 6‑4, 6‑2

THE MODERATOR:  Questions, please.

Q.  How was your morning this morning and afternoon before the match started?  How did you prepare and feel?
THANASI KOKKINAKIS:  Uhm, I felt all right.  I was just trying to drink a lot of salt so I didn't cramp.  I was expecting to play in a lot of heat.
The roof shut.  I felt really good physically.  I just tried to get a lot of sleep and just feel fresh.  Had a really cold shower to try to get me going, yeah.

Q.  Nerves?
THANASI KOKKINAKIS:  Nervous?  Uhm, a little bit, but I felt actually pretty settled early on in the match.  I thought he played really well early.  I mean, if you don't get it deep to him, he just runs you around the court.
There's that balance of trying to get it to deep.  And then if you hit it too short, he's moving you around.  Then you go for too much and that creates errors.  That's why he's so good.

Q.  What was it like in the first set?
THANASI KOKKINAKIS:  Yeah, I just got to try to be more aggressive on my return.  I didn't feel like I returned great, but his serve is probably more difficult than I expected to return.  He hits his spots well.  I think he was serving something like 75% first serves.  It moves a lot.  Although it's not huge power, it's definitely awkward to return.
But I actually felt not bad in the rallies once I got the first half‑decent deep shot in.¬† But, yeah, that was the tough part.

Q.  Did you learn a lot tonight?
THANASI KOKKINAKIS:  Yeah, I did.  Physically I think is probably the biggest thing that needs to improve.  That's pretty much the thing I see.  Just physically he's a beast.  I've obviously got a ways to go to get that strong and fit.

Q.  That might be a good thing to say you're only 17 and you're only going to get bigger and stronger.
THANASI KOKKINAKIS:  Yeah, I guess that's a good positive I can take out of it.  Obviously, backhand and forehand, there's no real weakness there.  And on his serve.  When he comes into the net, he usually hits such a good approach that he's got a sitter volley.
So he doesn't really miss many volleys either.  He just does everything well.  I was just trying to be aggressive and see where I could kind of create errors and hit winners.

Q.  He said that if you continue to improve all parts of your game, you have what it takes to become one of the great players.  That must be nice hearing that from the world No.1.
THANASI KOKKINAKIS:  Yeah, that's obviously nice.  He's a legend of the game.  For him to say that is a real big plus for me.  I know I need to keep working.  I have a lot of development to do.  It's only just the beginning.

Q.  With a packed Rod Laver Arena, did you have to change your temperament and be careful with the emotions?
THANASI KOKKINAKIS:  Yeah, I tried to keep my swear words to a minimum (laughter).  On the outside courts, obviously I haven't been on TV very much, but I can kind of let it out a little bit without any penalty.
I'm starting to get into the better tournaments, so I've got to kind of trim it down a little bit.  I think it gets me going as well.  When I get fired up, I think it's part of my game.

Q.  Anyone giving you any advice beforehand besides your personal team regarding taking Rafa on?
THANASI KOKKINAKIS:  Yeah, I got a lot of advice.  Tried to get as much as I could from people that have either played him or watched him a lot.  Some told me that I got to be aggressive no matter what, otherwise I have no chance.  Others told me to play within myself.
It was just up to me to choose what works.

Q.  You played Lleyton Hewitt, Rafael Nadal within a couple weeks of each other.  What an amazing experience.
THANASI KOKKINAKIS:  No, it's been great.  I probably couldn't have asked for a better start to the season.  Main thing is I'm healthy.  That's a huge thing, because last year, I mean, I had some good results, but I also missed too much time.  Happy I'm healthy.
And to play all these players, it's just great experiences for me in the long run.

Q.  Do you have a particular idol that you look up to on tour, someone in the Australian camp?
THANASI KOKKINAKIS:  Yeah, obviously Lleyton of all Australian tennis players, I think.  If he's not, then I think you got a bit of an issue because he's done so much for the sport in Australia.
Obviously Rafa, Federer, all those guys are idols.  But the one I enjoyed watching the most was Safin.

Q.  Both you and Nick have been in the spotlight the last couple days.  How have you found it?
THANASI KOKKINAKIS:  Yeah, it's good.  Obviously we've got a little bit of expectation to try to live up to.  I thought we did a good job of that, getting through in our first round.  Hopefully he can get through tonight.  See how he goes.  He's got a tough player as well in Paire.
No, it's been good.  As well as the Greek community.  Obviously all the Aussies, too.  It's good we can share that together and push each other through.

Q.  Some may say that Ash Barty taking on Serena Williams and yourself Nadal, it could be detrimental to your development to a certain degree.  You wouldn't think that way?
THANASI KOKKINAKIS:  Definitely not.  I don't know why people would really say that.  The thing you have to do is go out there confident because if you're in your shell, they're just going to tear you apart.
I tried to do what I do well, try to be aggressive.  All these experiences show the level you need to get to.

Q.  What are your plans for the year?  Where are you going to go and play?
THANASI KOKKINAKIS:  Yeah, I'm done with juniors for now.  I've got another year, but I kind of want to play with the big guys now, as I did with this tournament.  I was grateful to get the opportunity.
But, yeah, I've got doubles and mixed here, so I'll enjoy the Australian Open while it lasts.  Only happens once a year.  Then I'll go to Davis Cup with the team in France.  I'll enjoy that.
Then I think I've got a wild card into an ATP event in Europe.  I'll just see where that takes me.

Q.  Which one is that?
THANASI KOKKINAKIS:  I think Marseille, 250, yeah.

Q.  Are you more comfortable now answering questions in here?
THANASI KOKKINAKIS:  I've felt always comfortable.  I feel pretty good.  I mean, I would have felt better if I won.  But I feel fine, yeah.

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