Kokkinakis targets improvement after whirlwind Queen’s debut
Originally published on 17/06/15
The Australian wildcard, who beat Frenchman Jeremy Chardy on Tuesday, lost in straight sets to Gilles Simon at The Queen’s Club, 6-4 6-2.
It has been a whirlwind few days for the 19-year-old, who was at home in Australia at the weekend visiting his ill grandmother. He had decided to skip qualifying for the event but received word that he had received a wildcard in place of the injured Kyle Edmund.
“I got back [on Monday] at 12:00 after travelling something like 48 hours in three days,” Kokkinakis said. “I spent 30 hours at home and back off. As soon as I got here I had a hit to get the cobwebs out a little bit.
“I was pretty tired when I woke up, a bit sore in my glutes, but I think that’s just grass in general. I was a little bit fatigued but my ball striking wasn’t great either. I’m not going to use that too much as an excuse.”
Kokkinakis made a bright start on Centre Court as he broke Simon in his opening service game, but lost the next four games as the world No.13 took control of the match, winning 72% of points on the Australian’s second serve as he secured victory in an hour and 16 minutes.
“I started playing really well,” said Kokkinakis. “I was relaxed and free and played a couple of stupid points on my service game. That's when I really needed to put the foot down at 2-0 and he started growing confidence and I started to get negative and started to get tighter with my shots and didn't feel like I was swinging freely at all. It all went downhill from there.”
With 12 days to go before the Championships get underway, Kokkinakis knows he needs to work on his movement on the grass.
“Movement is the hardest part,” he said. “It’s obviously different to clay. The ball comes through a lot quicker, so I've got to get prepared earlier, which is what I didn't do today. But hopefully another week and a half before Wimbledon and I'll be ready.
“I've got to work out my footing a little bit better. That's going to be a big thing. If you can move well on grass, it helps a lot. Getting the first big shot in so I can dictate the points, I think that's going to be important going forward. You don't want to play too many defensive rallies on grass.”
Ranked No.628 at the end of 2013 and 150 at the beginning of this season, it has been an impressive six months for Kokkinakis, who broke into the world’s top 100 last month.
The 19-year-old Australian will play in the main draw at Wimbledon for the first time, returning to the All England Club for the first time since winning the boys’ doubles with Nick Kyrgios in 2013.
Last year he failed to qualify for Roland Garros and the US Open main draws. Twelve months on, he reached the third round in Paris, where he fell to world No.1 Novak Djokovic.
“It’s big for me,” said Kokkinakis, whose ranking now guarantees him automatic entry into the Grand Slams. “I definitely don't want to play qualies the rest of my life. It's something I had to do and I'm happy I did it that way rather than playing all the challengers. I’ve got used to the level, and that's how my coaching staff and team wanted me to do it. I’m glad I showed up to tough out a lot of qualies, and now I'm hopefully ready to make runs into the main draws.”
While Kokkinakis turns his attentions to next week's Boodles exhibition at Stoke Park, Simon will now face No.3 seed Milos Raonic in Friday's quarter-finals after the Canadian defeated Richard Gasquet 6-4 6-7(5) 6-1.
Meanwhile, a day after his impressive grass-court debut against Nick Kyrgios, French Open champion Stan Wawrinka's winning streak came to an end at the hands of the big-serving South African Kevin Anderson. Wawrinka saved five match points against the world No.17 before eventually succumbing 7-6(4) 7-6(11). Anderson will now meet Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, a 6-3 7-6(4) winner against Rafael Nadal's conqueror Alexandr Dolgopolov.