Kokkinakis on Alcaraz: ‘His energy is almost contagious’ | ATP tour

Probably the most memorable match of the season took place in the second round of the Australian Open, where after five hours and 45 minutes Andy Murray outplayed the local favorite Thanasi Kokkinakis. The grueling five-set match ended at 4:05 a.m. in Melbourne, two hours before dawn.

It would be easy for Kokkinakis to go into crisis after the defeat. The Australian let go of several leads against the former world No. 1 at his home Grand Slam, where he was pushing a big streak.

“Even though it was a heartbreaking match to be honest and I had it in the bag a few times, as bummed as I was after the match, I actually really enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun there,” Kokkinakis told ATPTour.com. “The only time I can say after a big defeat, especially one where I was on the front foot the whole time, that I enjoyed it. Tennis is so based on results that if you don’t win you’re just angry and obviously I was angry, but I can look back at the summer I had and the level of tennis I played at my best and try to take the positives from that.”

Kokkinakis admitted that he didn’t want to see a tennis racket for a while. But after a week, he was ready to put the loss to Murray behind him.

“I’ve been through worse things than losing a tennis match from a winning position. In the scheme of things, it hurts a little bit, but I’ve had a lot of good feedback, a lot of people have reached out to me,” Kokkinakis said. “Some idiots came up to me saying, ‘What happened?’ It’s not what I wanted to talk about afterwards, but mostly it was encouraging signs.”

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Overall, this has been a good start to the season for Kokkinakis. In a week where he was defending 250 Pepperstone ATP ranking points at Adelaide-2, the Australian dropped a break in the third set of his first-round match against Alexei Popyrin. Kokkinakis won the match and reached the final, regaining 150 of those points and later lifting the ATP Challenger Tour title in Manama, Bahrain.

“So far this year it’s taken a damn good player to beat me, so I like to think my tennis is in a good place,” Kokkinakis said. “I just have to keep trying and keep pushing. In tennis, you have to have a short-term memory. There’s a new opportunity almost every week, so you can’t overthink things.”

Kokkinakis will not have to for his next match at the BNP Paribas Open, where he will face top seed Carlos Alcaraz in the second round. The Australian got fired up about the 19-year-old Spaniard.

“Not only does he have no weaknesses, he just plays with great energy. He plays tennis the right way. He’s always awake, he’s always smiling,” Kokkinakis said. “I think the audience likes to watch him because his energy is almost contagious. He is one of my favorite players to watch. Whenever he plays, I try to tune in if I have time.”

The youngest world No. 1 in the history of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Kokkinakis will have a lot of tools to deal with on court.

“I just like the way he plays. He’s got good firepower, he’s quick, he’s got good hands,” Kokkinakis said. “I saw it a few years ago just watching some of his highlights. It’s so hard to overshadow what those legends have done in our sport with how many Slams they’ve won, but he’s definitely capable and I think he has a chance if he stays healthy for sure.”

Fans who have followed Kokkinakis’ journey through this BNP Paribas Open may have noticed a change for the Australian midway through the tournament. He cut his hair. Actually, he got two.

“This time I butchered him. I don’t know. I’ve asked a few people, I’m looking at the reviews,” said Kokkinakis. “The first place I went to had decent reviews and then I walked in there and didn’t see anyone under 65. I thought it was too late to retire so in the end I just kind of fought through it.”

The product was not what the world number 94 was looking for to fix what he said looked like a “tennis ball” head. An hour later, he found another barber.

“I went up to a guy who obviously had a court date later that day, so that gave me a lot of confidence to be honest because I knew he probably got a haircut somewhere along the way,” Kokkinakis said. “I didn’t referee and he made a good cut, so I’m happy with the result.”

Now Kokkinakis can fully focus on his next opponent. While full of praise for Alcaraz, the Australian’s game is also good.

“I know that my game, when it’s at its best, is capable of beating a lot of guys,” Kokkinakis said. “But I also know that consistency is what I struggle with, so I’m hoping to go up against the best players this year and hopefully knock a few down and see how well I can go this year.”

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