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Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis take the Australian Open by storm

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Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis take the Australian Open by storm

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If someone then corrected you and said the din was actually from a singles tennis match at the Australian Open, you might have thought Ashleigh Barty or Rafa Nadal might be playing.

In fact, the racquet was from an Australian Open men’s doubles quarter-final. The flagship act? “Special K”, otherwise known as Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis.

The Australian wildcard duo sent fans into a frenzy throughout their unlikely journey to the semi-finals of their home grand slam, culminating in a raucous 7-5 3-6 6-3 quarter-final win over Tim Puetz and Michael Venus in a crowded Kia Arena on Tuesday.

Hype to the crowd, chest bumps, acts of tribute to Cristiano Ronaldo – showcasing the tennis alone wouldn’t do justice to the spectacle the Aussie pair provided.

Arguably, doubles occupies a delicate place in the world of tennis – with singles events always taking priority both in terms of prize money and coverage – which makes the attention and adulation the duo garner daunting. all the more impressive.

Yet for Kyrgios and Kokkinakis, their relationship with the crowd is a symbiosis and forms the core of their motivation to perform.

“This Australian Open, honestly for us, is more about the people – playing for them is more important than our doubles success,” Kyrgios said.

“We haven’t set any targets on what we want to achieve this year in doubles, I just want to play and put on a show for Australians and the Australian Open and really try to grow the sport of tennis.

“That’s why I play, and I know Thanasi just enjoys it – it’s the most fun we’ve ever had on the pitch.

“The thrill for us is to walk honestly. It sounds silly, but we worry about what will happen in the game afterwards,” added Kokkinakis.

“Seeing the support we have and the crowd going crazy every time we go and how much they appreciate it, it motivates us and motivates us to do better for them.”

Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis take the Australian Open by storm

 | Local News

Tears and cheers

A perfect encapsulation of the pair’s connection to the Melbourne crowd – as well as Kyrgios’ enigmatic personality – came early in the first set of the quarter-final when the 26-year-old ferociously whipped a dead ball back into the crowd after a let serve.

The bullet hit a child, making him cry, with a mortified Kyrgios covering his mouth in shock.

After a brief chat with Kokkinakis, Kyrgios ran to the stand to hand an apologetic sign to a lad who – although admittedly still watery-eyed – was now holding up a grin, a new racket and a monster of a story to share at school.

The ensuing warm outpouring of applause from the crowd was a response the oft-dubbed “bad boy of tennis” didn’t always get.

On the pitch, antics have sometimes blighted an undoubtedly talented career – an immaturity he admits – with Kyrgios telling CNN last year he had a “love-hate” relationship with the sport.
Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis take the Australian Open by storm

 | Local News

Still, that doubles run seems to have really fired up Kyrgios and there’s no doubt which side of the ‘love-hate’ this year’s crowd is falling on – especially the swathe of young fans who got hyped up in matches at the duet in Melbourne Park.

“There’s no getting around it, me and Thanasi are definitely role models for Australian youth, we obviously attract that crowd,” Kyrgios said.

“I know over the years I haven’t been the best role model, but I was just learning to handle everything and I think now, at 26, I’ve matured and definitely realized that a lot young children and people — even people with low self-esteem — they look up to us when we go out.

“We’re not special people, we’re normal humans that you might see walking around in Australia…I think we’re just relatable, that’s the best part about it.”

Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis take the Australian Open by storm

 | Local News

Reliable

For Krygios, 26, difference is the key word for his place in the sport.

“Tennis has always had personalities, I’ve said that before but I think they just struggled to understand that there are different ways to go about it.

“You have Roger Federer and these guys who are once in a generation of athletes – I can’t be like that, we’re not like that, there have to be people who are a little bit easier to to understand.”

Ability aside, Krygios and Kokkinakis put on a once-in-a-generation show at the Australian Open – just spare a thought for lovers of Melbourne’s peace and quiet if they go all the way.

Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis take the Australian Open by storm

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