Thanasi Kokki­nakis on come­back trail af­ter hor­ror year of in­juries

NT News - - NEWS - MELISSA WOODS

AN in­jury-prone Thanasi Kokki­nakis will be hop­ing he’s next in line for an Aus­tralian Open wild­card af­ter de­cid­ing to sit out the wild­card play-offs at Mel­bourne Park start­ing on Mon­day.

Ja­son Kubler and Priscilla Hon were on Thurs­day awarded di­rect en­try into the main draw of Jan­uary’s Open on the back of some promis­ing 2018 re­sults.

That leaves Ten­nis Aus­tralia with three dis­cre­tionary wild­cards to hand out in each field, with 22-year-old Kokki­nakis count­ing on one be­ing his.

Cur­rently world No.152 Kokki­nakis is look­ing to re­build his rank­ing af­ter suf­fer­ing se­ri­ous shoul­der and pec­toral in­juries as well as a cracked kneecap in April.

That came just af­ter Kokki­nakis up­set then world No.1 Roger Fed­erer in the se­cond round of the Mi­ami Open in the big­gest win of his ca­reer. Ten­nis Aus­tralia said the Ade­laide ta­lent was still work­ing his way back from some mi­nor in­juries and wasn’t up to five-set ten­nis, which the field will con­test next week.

Kokki­nakis will in­stead tar­get a com­pet­i­tive re­turn in early Jan­uary in the Bris­bane In­ter­na­tional, where he won the 2017 dou­bles ti­tle with Jor­dan Thomp­son.

He will need a wild­card into the sin­gles main draw, which he re­ceived back in 2015. World No.91 Kubler and Hon, ranked 120, were granted Bris­bane wild­cards along­side their Aus­tralian Open en­try.

At 144, Marc Pol­mans is the next best-ranked Aus­tralian be­hind Kubler, fol­lowed by Kokki­nakis.

The wild­card play-off has at­tracted a strong lo­cal field with Alex Bolt, who lost last year’s fi­nal to ris­ing star Alex de Min­aur, the top men’s seed.

Ranked out­side the top 200 in Jan­uary, de Min­aur used the op­por­tu­nity to set up a stun­ning year as he rock­eted up the rank­ings to fin­ish the year at a ca­reer high world No.31 and as Aus­tralia’s top-ranked male player. Other young­sters to watch in­clude Akira San­til­lan, Max Pur­cell (NSW) and Aus­tralia’s top ranked ju­nior Rinky Hi­jikata.

“This event is a ter­rific op­por­tu­nity for our next tier of play­ers to earn the op­por­tu­nity to com­pete at Grand Slam level,” Aus­tralian Davis Cup cap­tain Lley­ton He­witt said.

“This year’s field is a real mix of youth and ex­pe­ri­ence which I’m sure will play out with some fas­ci­nat­ing matches.”

Arina Ro­di­onova will again lead the women’s field which fea­tures last year’s win­ner Des­ta­nee Ai­ava.

“This year’s field is a real mix of youth and ex­pe­ri­ence” LLEY­TON HE­WITT

Pic­ture: GETTY

Thanasi Kokki­nakis has his sights set on an Aus­tralian Open wild­card

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