Tag Archives: ATP

Kokko-pops. Here comes the Special K.

27 Feb

Thanasi Kokkinakis, Brisbane, 2014. GETTY IMAGES

Thanasi Kokkinakis: an eye on the future.

You would be excused for thinking young Aussie tennis player Thanasi Kokkinakis has come from nowhere. However, like all teen “sensations” there is a steady back catalogue of blood, sweat and tears. Kokkinakis began playing tennis at the age of 8 – in this day of early learning and toddler motor skills programs that seems like a late start. Kokk was hooked by watching clips of Marat Safin, and later Gael Monfils.

Watch Kokkinakis play today and you can see the entertainer emerging in his game too. Big forehand, big serve, big ear-ring. He does look like he was born for the centre court. He’s Greek, he’s flashy – starting to sound familiar. Yep, it sounds like a throw back to that other big serving Greek / Aussie of reality TV fame – the Scud, Mark Philippoussis. While the Scud was ultimately, some would argue a huge talent, but an under achiever, perhaps Kokkinakis is poised to deliver on his promise.

For a start he has the advantage of a rock solid foundation – his family. Dad Trevor came to Australia as a 5year old – and grew up in the tough working class inner west Adelaide suburbs. His is a story of hard work, struggles and ultimate success; owning and operating his own engineering firm. Kokk’s siblings (he is the youngest) all have university degrees, and father Trevor insists Thanasi will finish school, hopefully this year. Grounded – that’s Trevor.

He is coached by Todd Langman. Langman himself is a rookie at this level – he gave up a promising baseball career to work more with Kokkinakis, and that decision is paying off. I was lucky enough to see the two of them in action at this year’s Australian Open in my media role, and you wouldn’t see a more cohesive coach / player partnership. Langman and Kokkinakis have been together 10 years, since Thanasi first struck a tennis ball. In Langman’s words – “it is a dream to coach someone with Thanasi’s ability”. There is no ego with Langman, he is like a sponge, learning on the job, questioning, seeking advice – he is well on his way and will be  a first rate tour coach. He even had the cheek to line up a 10 day training block in Mallorca with someone’s Uncle Toni. Grounded – that’s Todd Langman.

Believe it or not Kokkinakis was playing his first overseas events in 2010 – in the European 14 and under tour. He broke through with a few wins, got the bug and has not looked back since. A runner-up in the 2013 Australian Open junior final, albeit played with a stress fracture in his back, sealed his pedigree. This year he has beaten 4 top 100 players and already cut his ATP ranking  from over 1600+ just 13 months ago to inside 400. It’s no surprise to those who have seen his work ethic – after a 1st round loss last week at the ATP 500 in Marseille, Kokkinakis tweeted “gotta get better, # at the practice court!”  Hard working Trevor would be proud. Like father, like son.

The PRO

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Marinko Matosevic, classic late bloomer.

13 Aug

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Marinko Matosevic on the rise – thanks to new coach Mark Woodforde.

You would hardly call it a quick ascent up the tennis rankings for Australian 28 year old Marinko Matosevic. Marinko has been chipping away at a tennis career since the age of 10, and was stalled in the rankings between 250 to 1000+ for his first 7 years as a pro. In fact, even as a 26 year old in 2011 Matosevic was still outside the top 200. How do you keep going when you are so far from your dream?

Resilience. Perseverance. The reality that this may be your last chance. Maturity. Stubborness. All have played a part in Marinko’s climb. 2012, his 9th year on tour. Matosevic clawed his way above the pack rising from the minor ATP Challenger event in laid back Caloundra to a qualifying breakthrough into the main tour event in Delray Beach. Matosevic carried that qualifying form all the way through to his first final, and by year end had not only broken through the top 100 barrier to #49, but had picked up the prestigious “ATP Most Improved player for 2012” award. And one other baton was passed on – Marinko Matosevic ended the year as Australia’s top ranked male singles player. This baton, however, was more an indictment on the state of Australian tennis, than an endorsement of Matosevic’s rise.

After a horror start to 2013, which saw him almost tumble out of the top 100, Marinko Matosevic has sought the advice of former Aussie great Mark Woodforde. In the one month together he has reached 2 quarter finals, and had wins over Tommy Haas, Benjamin Becker, Benoit Paire and Milos Raonic. Every one of those players would have had Marinko for breakfast for the first 8 years of his career. Perhaps he has learnt new skills. Listening, belief, and more than likely, fear. Fear at how close the finish line is to a late blooming career, and fear in the inability to see yourself doing anything else once that fleeting career is over. For Marinko – the time is now.

The PRO.

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Nick Kyrgios. ready to shine.

28 May

Nick Kyrgios. ready to shine.

Great chat with a happy George Kyrgios on Melbourne Radio 3AW this morning. George sat up all night watching the computer update live scores as his son, ITF world #1 junior, Nick Kyrgios triumphed over the experienced Radek Stepanek (ATP #57) at Roland Garros in his first Grand Slam main draw match at the French Open.

Why aren’t all tennis parent’s this level-headed and humble?!

The PRO.

Age no barrier

19 Oct

In a sport where it seems everyone is getting stronger, faster, more athletic and doing it all sooner, spare a thought for the growing army of tour “veterans”. Guys like Radek Stepanek, little Lleyton Hewitt, Tommy Haas, Nikolay Davydenko and even Roger Federer are pushing past 30. And a similar tale on the WTA roster. Venus and Serena Williams are comfortably in the twilight of their careers, Kimiko Date-Krumm is still competing at 42.

 Teen prodigies Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe.

Why do they keep flogging themselves? Surely not for the money, is it the lifestyle, the travel, the constant practice court and hotel room grind – The reality is they are all hardened competitors – modern day gladiators who thrive on the pressure and thrill of the contest.

Despite the perception of “young guns” bursting onto the tennis tour – the reality is players are having their success later and later.  On the ATP tour in 2011 the youngest final was played in Houston between Ryan Sweeting (23) and Kei Nishikori (21) – hardly teen prodigies. Teens are very scarce on the men’s tour, Bernard Tomic was the only teenager in the men’s top 100 – and not so anymore as he has just turned 20. In fact you need to go back to 2008 for the last teenage winner of a men’s title – and then only just a teen as Marin Cilic was 19 and 11 months at the time.

So don’t despair – keep living your dream, you have plenty of time.

The PRO

 

Roger – thumbs up

17 Oct

Roger Federer - 2012 RomeThe race to the year end ATP # 1 ranking is looming as a showdown between rejuvenated Roger Federer and a rampant Novak Djokovic. Novak won the points in the latest instalment by triumphing this week at the Shanghai Rolex Masters event. He survived an epic contest in the final with Scot Andy Murray – who must also have a slim chance of finishing the year at #1, after Murray had 7 match points.

Federer’s problem is his stellar end of year run last year means he is defending champion at the next 3 events – and can only lose ranking points at this stage. Its very hard to defend points on such a successful run. But that is what Roger has always done. Last week he celebrated another milestone –  the first player ever to hold the #1 ranking for 300 weeks. Pete Sampras was among the first to congratulate Federer.

Sampras said, “It’s an incredible achievement and accomplishment to be ranked No. 1 in the world for 300 weeks. It is a testament to his consistency at the top of the game for so many years.” Sampras himself spent 286 weeks as tennis’s #1.

So its off to the Kremlin Cup in Russia, and then the Swiss indoor, before the tour heads to London for the season ending Masters Cup. Who will be last #1 standing?

The PRO

 

ITALY’S GOT TALENT…but will they make it to the top?

20 Sep

 ATP Challenger final, Harbour Club, Milano

Three Fed Cup victories since 2006, Francesca Schiavone’s 2011 French Open title and Sara Errani’s runner up effort this year on the Roland Garros clay illustrate the strength of Italian tennis. And with 3 women into the round of 16 at Wimbledon and 6 men in the ATP top 100, Australian High Performance coach and tennis writer, Jamie Parrott ventured to Italy to find out what is driving the rise in Italian tennis and how far it can go?

Look out for the full article in the October edition of the Australian Tennis Magazine… and later next month on this blog.

Roger – sliced and diced by rampant Djokovic.

8 Jun

Federer practice session The Swiss maestro, Roger Federer – eyes on the ball, executes a slice backhand against Novak Djokovic.

There is a crack appearing in the male tennis fraternity’s famous ATP Big 4. Yes it is true the past 2 years have seen many semi finals fought between ATP #1 Novak Djokovic,  # 2 Raphael Nadal, #3 Roger Federer and #4 Andy Murray. While matches are highly contested and other contenders bob up (Del Potro, Raonic, Ferrer) – the reality has been the big 4 is an exclusive club.

Well not any more. The first to be cast aside was Scotland’s Andy Murray – no slam titles, injuries and a mounting sense of vulnerability – even from his own statements about the strengths of the others. Murray, one feels, was probably always only included as a guest in Big 4 discussions without any real fabric to support the argument. So big 3?

While Rafa and Roger have been swapping the #2 ranking over the past month, reality stared us down last night. Roger Federer is that special type of “generational”athlete. He has always been the exception to many of the basic fundamentals of our sport. Many coaches qualify comments to young players with – “well of course, except for Roger” when chastising a player for an audacious shot selection. He is one out of the box – there is no comparison. He is fluent, graceful, potent, surgical in his execution of his opponents.

Federer is also 30 – and the way he was brushed aside by Novak Djokovic was alarming. The writing has probably been on the wall for sometime, and perhaps many of us have ignored the signs. Roger Federer is proud and he knows Wimbledon will level the playing field. But for now it is the Big 2.

The PRO