One year ago, in the media centre at Melbourne Park, Thanasi Kokkinakis broke down in tears after winning an Australian Open match for the first time in six years.
A tennis career that began so promisingly had been so cruelled by injury that some feared Kokkinakis would walk away from the game without reaching the heights he was capable of.
A career-high ATP rank of No.69 at the end of 2015 was followed by problems with his shoulders, pectorals, groin, knee, and elbow.
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At last year's Open, the young Aussie talent finally equalled his best previous performance at his home slam - a second-round loss. Last year's came in the form of a thrilling, gritty five-setter against Stefanos Tsitispas.
On Saturday night Kokkinakis was once again in tears after a tennis match. But this time they were tears of joy, having won his maiden ATP title by claiming the Adelaide International - his home state event.
"I think I was down a set, maybe up 6-5 on serve in the second set, and the crowd just went nuts coming out of a change of end," Kokkinakis said on Sunday of his triumph in Adelaide.
"I haven't heard noise like that (in) forever. It was unreal. The steps and grinding to get to that point, to play out of all places in Adelaide, to find my best tennis, have my best two tournaments maybe ever.
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"The crowd just rallied me back. I honestly couldn't have asked for anything more. I don't know if it's really sunk in yet to be honest."
Last year's Australian Open performance and his much more recent victory in Adelaide prove the 25-year-old is ready to hit the peak of his tennis career.
He begins this year's Open this afternoon against Yannick Hanfmann. Kokkinakis is ranked No.103 following Saturday's win, Hanfmann is No.126.
And he's banking on going one better than his second-round Australian Open best.
"Last year when I came into the Aussie summer, I came off of glandular fever and hadn't played a match," Kokkinakis said.
"I only played maybe four or five tournaments in two years. [Now] I come in with a year of tennis under my belt. I had a pre-season uninterrupted.
"I was able to build that continuity and rhythm. I was able to train hard, get in the best shape physically I've probably ever been in. The results kind of speak for themselves so far."
If he is to get past the second round, though, he will have to beat Hanfmann and then upset Spanish champion Rafael Nadal.
Nadal won his first-round match in straight sets, and hopes he gets to face the young Aussie later this week.
"He always has been a fantastic player," Nadal said of Kokkinakis.
"He's been, I think, very unlucky with a lot of injuries. I'm really happy to see him back at a very high level, probably playing better than ever.
"If that happens it will be a big challenge for me... but that's why I'm here, to face the best players, and Thanasi would be amazing."
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Title: What spurred Kokkinakis to career-defining feat
Sourced From: wwos.nine.com.au/tennis/australian-open-2022-thanasi-kokkinakis-adelaide-international-winner-result-injuries/d3fd3ef0-c90d-4464-b846-a7323e3cd610
Published Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2022 06:21:30 +0000