Townsville Bulletin

Kokkinis can’t be stopped in North


- MATTHEW ELKERTON Jacob Bradshaw smashes a forehand in the men's AMT final at the North Queensland Open. Picture: Matthew Elkerton

SHE might only be 13, but Queensland­er Tahlia Kokkinis is already proving she can match it with the best in the state.

The Brisbane teenager, who dreams of following in the footsteps of World No.1 Ash Barty and joining the WTA, made short work of her rivals in the North Queensland Open.

Tahlia, who has racked up more than a decade on the courts already, was unstoppabl­e in her final beating second seed Chelsea Stergiopol­ous 6-1, 6-2.

It was a similar score line for most of Tahlia’s tournament, but she was adamant it did not reflect the fight in each of her opponents and the difficulty of contending with the blistering Townsville heat.

A first time competitor at the annual Townsville Tennis showpiece, Tahlia said the heat on court was almost unbearable at times and had proved to be a mental battle over the weekend.

“It was pretty tough, the first day I was drenched (with sweat) but over time I got used to the heat. It was really intense,” she said.

“I think it is a mental battle. You don’t know how long you will be out there for, what is happening, is the opponent going to feel the same way in the heat? It plays with your mind and you feel fatigued. Thoughts start coming in to your mind and you have to let go of them.

“I am happy with how


Tahlia Kokkinis.

played. Even though the score line didn’t quite show it, the girls were playing quite well. It was tougher than what it looked like. There were games that went to deuce and I somehow managed to win a lot of those.

“It feels like relief, it feels really good. I like playing the AMTS because it is girls who are older than me, it is good experience.”

Tahlia is coached by her father, while older brother Michael, 16, also played in the Men’s AMT event in Townsville.

Michael finished his tournament with a straight-sets win over Isaac King in the men’s consolatio­n final.

“It is good to have my family involved,” Tahlia said. “(Michael) helps me train and practice, without him I wouldn’t have been the player I was today. He helps me out a lot.

“My dad is my coach. It is good because he has coached me since I was three when I started playing. It is good to have him as a coach because he genuinely wants to improve me and see me get better.”

WITH an emphatic forehand drive down the line Jacob Bradshaw let out a loud roar and etched his name alongside a long list of North Queensland champions.

But the Brisbane bomber was made to work hard in the hot Townsville sun to do it.

Bradshaw, the tournament top seed, had to dig deep within to find that extra gear late in the contest after former three-time North Queensland champion Kaden Hensel pushed their tournament final to a Super Tie-breaker.

Hensel appeared down and out midway through the second set before he found a chink in Bradshaw’s serve to force multiple break points.

The veteran, who had 17 years on his rival, pushed hard in the Super Tie-breaker but just couldn’t quite keep up as Bradshaw switched tactics to win 6-3, 4-6, 10-8.

“We were both serving really well so it was a great Super Tie-breaker,” Bradshaw said.

“(I am) very glad (it wasn’t longer). I was struggling out there, I had to change my shirt. I am not used to this heat.

“It is good, it makes it harder. Brisbane is not quite as humid as this so I had to come up with some different strategies and take my time between the points. It made me think a little bit more.

“In the second set I was just going for two big serves and I was going for too much. In the tie-breaker I just played more high percentage shots and took a bit of power off my first serve and made more of my serves count.

“It is a good feeling (to win), especially after a Super Tie-breaker. It was a really close match and I am feeling really good.”

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