Thanasi Kokkinakis is steeling himself for the “circus” that is Nick Kyrgios as he plots to out-perform tennis’s greatest showman in a genuine US Open showstopper in New York.
Forget Broadway, a seat at sold-out Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday night is the hottest ticket in town, with the Australian doubles partners clashing after Serena Williams plays possibly the last match of her transcendent career.
Most of the 23,771 available tickets were snapped up within hours of Williams announcing earlier this month that she was “evolving away from tennis” after her 21st Open campaign.
The 23-time grand slam champion’s “curtain raiser” against Montenegrin Danka Kovinic is sure to be a stirring affair, regardless of the result, with Kyrgios saying he couldn’t afford to get swept up in the hysteria.
The Wimbledon runner-up is favoured to topple his great mate, but Kokkinakis has other ideas.
Finally injury free and set to complete his first full grand slam season in seven years, Kokkinakis believes he has the weapons to upstage Kyrgios in their first meeting in professional ranks.
“I’m not just going to sit back and wait. I’ve got to be aggressive and play my game and hopefully it works for me,” Kokkinakis told AAP.
Kokkinakis, though, accepts nothing will come easily, wary not only of Kyrgios’s potent serve but also his colourful antics.
The 26-year-old says he won’t take any Kyrgios theatrics personally but knows he must have the answers.
“He loves to kind of live in the chaos a bit when it comes to matches. He turns it into a bit of a circus around him and he’s just so comfortable with that,” Kokkinakis said.
“He’s done it from such a young age. Even 12 and under, 13 and under nationals – I’ve known him for a while.
“But he’s got the game, obviously, to back it up. It’s not just that, so it will be awkward.”
Kyrgios says Kokkinakis is among the rivals on tour with whom he wouldn’t “cross the line” on court because of their friendship.
But Kokkinakis insists he won’t take any potential dramas personally if Kyrgios loses his cool.
“I’ve seen him do it with a lot of close players he’s played on tour. That’s just him. It’s what makes him tick and what brings the best out of him with his tennis,” Kokkinakis said.
“So I’ve got to find what works for me the best on the day.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out, whether we’re going to come out a little flat or whether the energy’s intense.
“It will be weird. I don’t know – I honestly couldn’t say how it’s going to play out.”
Kyrgios or Kokkinakis will play the winner of the all-French match between Ugo Humbert and Benjamin Bonzi in the second round.
Five of the Special Ks’ compatriots are also in action on day one, including Australia’s men’s and women’s No.1s Alex de Minaur and Ajla Tomljanovic, plus former quarter-finalist John Millman, Jordan Thompson and Daria Saville.
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