Kokkinakis, ranked No. 93 in the world, is not technically the defending champion until Adelaide International Two next week.
That’s a good thing, too, considering nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic is leading a ridiculously strong field of Felix Auger Aliassime, Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev, Holger Rune and Jannik Sinner this week.
They are all in the top 15 men’s players in the world, while the other two seeds – Denis Shapovalov and Karen Khachanov – are former top 10 stars who still rank in the top 20.
Kokkinakis, who meets American Maxime Cressy in his opening game in Adelaide ahead of a possible clash with Sinner, hopes “absurd” competition will feed into criticism of his performance. “There’s pressure because everyone’s like, ‘Defending champions; can he do it again?’. I don’t think they realize how difficult it is. This is my best tournament ever,” he said.
“It’s been happening for I don’t know how many years I’ve been playing tennis, so it’s not like, ‘Yeah, I’ll defend it, don’t worry’. Djokovic plays, [and he’s the] best of all time or one of the best of all time.
“It’s a crazy field but I’m always happy to have the support when I come here.”
Former world No. 1 Djokovic, who is preparing to play his first tournament in Australia since his deportation drama last year, is perhaps the only player attracting more interest than Kokkinakis.
“And with good reason,” Kokkinakis said. “I mean, in terms of stats, he’ll probably be the best that’s ever done, at least in the short term.
“It’s no surprise he has crazy fans. The Serbs love it and stand behind him. He has massive support down under, as well as how well he did in Australia [the] Aussie Open, but everywhere you look, top 10 player meets top 10 player.
“It’s almost as if Medvedev is flying under the radar or Holger, who just won the Paris Masters, is flying a bit under the radar. Felix had a massive backend last year.
“It will of course be the Djokovic show, but there are many good players who are more than capable of winning this title.”
Watch all the action from the summer of tennis, including the United Cup, live on Channel Nine, 9Gem and 9NOW.
https://www.smh.com.au/sport/tennis/kokkinakis-tempers-adelaide-expectations-amid-djokovic-show-20230101-p5c9pw.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_sport Thanasi Kokkinakis tempers Adelaide’s title expectations amid ‘Novak Djokovic Show’