An entertaining and charismatic on-court presence, Thanasi Kokkinakis overcame a heartbreaking series of injury setbacks to become an ATP Tour champion for the first time in 2022 with a dream run in his hometown of Adelaide.
Just a few weeks later, Kokkinakis was holding another trophy — the 2022 Australian Open men’s doubles crown — alongside his close friend and fellow Australian Nick Kyrgios. The duo’s emotional run at their home Grand Slam features in the first episode of Netflix’s new behind-the-scenes series Break Point. ATPTour.com runs down five things you may not know about one half of the duo known as the ‘Special Ks’.
1. He Has Shown Great Resilience In The Face Of Injuries
Kokkinakis was just 19 when he first cracked the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in 2015, but since then he has endured a series of injury setbacks that have limited his time on court. Each time, however, the Australian has put in the hard yards to come back and in January 2022 he won his maiden ATP Tour title in his hometown of Adelaide.
“I proved that the mind is probably the most important thing,” Kokkinakis told ATPTour.com when asked how he had overcome adversity to find success. “Obviously you’ve got to have some skill and a work ethic to balance it out, but if you’re strong with your mind and you keep pushing, you never know. The fortunate thing with tennis is you’re only a week away from turning your career around, so that’s the biggest thing.”
Thanasi Kokkinakis kisses the centre court in his hometown of Adelaide after his 2022 title win.
2. His Heart Belongs At Home
While some players struggle to perform under the weight of home pressure, Kokkinakis has often spoken about his love for being at home with family and friends. His 2022 Adelaide success is perhaps a reflection of how comfortable the Australian feels in his home environment.
“I wouldn’t want to win my first title anywhere else,” said Kokkinakis after lifting the trophy on his home court. “To my family, friends and coaches, what a ride it’s been… I’ve been playing and practising on this court since I was eight or nine years old, coming here before school every day. I love this court so much.”
3. He Loves Life As A ‘Special K’
While a high-energy character on the singles court, Kokkinakis’ doubles partnership with Nick Kyrgios is renowned for its sense of fun and crowd engagement. The close friends, who have known each other since they were junior players in Australia, share a unique on-court bond that Kokkinakis admits he finds refreshing.
“We always talk rubbish together, playing with him is always an experience,” said Kokkinakis prior to the pair’s Australian Open title run in 2022. “I don’t think we’re the most sort of traditional doubles pairing you’ll see. We have fun out there. We like to get the crowd going… Being on court with each other, we can kind of relax a little bit, kind of feed off each other. It gives us a good sort of bond.”
4. Thanasi Is A Big Fan Of This Basketball Player…
Like his good friend Kyrgios, Kokkinakis is a huge basketball fan. Unlike Boston Celtics die-hard Kyrgios, however, Kokkinakis’ allegiance lies mostly with a single NBA player as opposed to one team.
The Australian is a huge admirer of Phoenix Suns’ point guard Chris Paul. Kokkinakis has admitted that, when it comes to basketball, he will only really follow the team Paul plays for, at least until he retires. He even had the chance to meet his basketball idol in 2013, when Paul was playing for the Los Angeles Clippers.
5. He Is Bilingual
Although he is a born-and-bred Aussie, Kokkinakis’ parents both have Greek roots. Despite never having lived in Geece, he can speak the language, with the help of an occasional English word to fill in the gaps!
“I do speak Greek. Not as fluently as my parents would like, but I’m not bad,” explained Kokkinakis in 2015. “I understand everything. I can string together most sentences, but some I struggle. I have to throw an English word in there. Both my parents were born in Greece. My dad moved over to Australia when he was five and them went back on holiday, and that’s when he met my mom, when she was like 23, and brought her over.”