The Australian Open 2020 Play-off takes place at Melbourne Park this week, with the lower-ranked Australian players fighting for the spot in the main draw of the first Major of the season in January. Alex Bolt, Andrew Harris, Max Purcell and Blake Mott lead the men's draw while world no.
200 Thanasi Kokkinakis decided to skip the action, hoping for a direct wild card into the Australian Open field. Back in January, the organizers didn't want to give him a wild card, forcing Thanasi to compete in the qualifying round, passing those three matches before retiring in the first round against Taro Daniel.
The Adelaide native played only nine tournaments in 2019, scoring three ATP wins and advancing into one Challenger final in the last event he played in September in Tiburon. Working at home in Adelaide, Kokkinakis will kick off the next season from Canberra Challenger, hoping to gain the rhythm and probably grab a wild card for the second week at the home ATP 250 event.
Thanasi had to undergo a right shoulder surgery at the end of 2015, missing almost all the action until May 2017 and struggling with an abdominal strain that made his comeback even more challenging. Following a slow return that spring, Kokkinakis made a big step forward after reaching the first ATP final in Los Cabos in August, unable to stay healthy and staying sidelined after the US Open to start 2018 from outside the top-200.
Motivated to leave injuries and a dark period behind him, Thanasi defeated Roger Federer in Miami last year to become the lowest-ranked player who toppled the world no. 1 in 15 years, showing signs of improvement and wanting to build upon that in the months to come.
There was no time to enjoy the massive win, though, as he suffered a knee injury in the opening set of Monte Carlo Masters against Karen Khachanov when he caught an advertising padding, missing all the events until Roland Garros.
By the end of the season, Thanasi claimed titles at Aptos and Las Vegas Challengers to gain points and confidence, preparing for the start of 2019 where nothing changed for better as injuries ruined his plans and schedule.
"I'm really looking forward to starting my year off in Canberra. I haven't been to Canberra since I attended a training camp there as a junior and I've heard great things about the facilities at the Canberra Tennis Centre.
For me, the main goal heading into the Australian summer is to stay healthy and get some quality matches under my belt. I've put in the hard work the past few months and I'm feeling great and ready to get back out on the court.
I'm anticipating the field is going to be very strong in Canberra and it is a great chance for me to test myself against some of the best players in the world," Kokkinakis said. Tennis ACT CEO and Apis Canberra International Tournament Director, Kim Kachel, said: "We are thrilled to welcome Thanasi to the capital for the first time and are sure the Canberra community will get right behind him.
Thanasi is one of the most exciting young talents on the ATP Tour and has proven he has what it takes to beat the best in the world, posting victories over Roger Federer and Milos Raonic."