Thanasi Kokkinakis admits he’s in a weird place as he contemplates opening his Australian Open campaign against Italian veteran Fabio Fognini while his stirring Adelaide International title defence rolls on.
Kokkinakis learnt that he will begin his home grand slam against the world No.57 just hours before he produced another crowd-pleasing effort to dispatch Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic in three sets at Memorial Drive on Thursday night.
The impressive win, which included 59 winners, set up a semi-final meeting with world No.26 Roberto Bautista Agut on Friday night.
But Kokkinakis also knows the impact of his Adelaide International last year hit him hard in a first-round loss at Melbourne Park.
“It‘s weird, mentally, knowing you have another player you’re thinking about next week, but you’re already in a tournament this week and you’ve got to worry about Bautista Agut,” Kokkinakis said after his three-set win against Kecmanovic.
“It’s not easy. I have just got to focus on this week and I’ll worry about Fognini next. But he’s a hell of a player and has been at the top of the game as well.
“I’ve played him a couple times on tour and have a good record against him, but I know what his top level is capable of.
“He‘s a vet, his ball striking is very good, especially when he’s locked in, so it’s not going to be easy.”
Kokkinakis has played the 35-year-old Italian twice on tour, upsetting him when he was a 19-year-old at the Cincinnati Masters in 2015 and prevailing in straight sets on clay in Switzerland last year.
The hometown hero, ranked No.110 in the world, has defeated countryman Alexei Popyrin (ranked 113), Andrey Rublev (6) and Kecmanovic (28) to advance to the semi-final stage.
After holding aloft his maiden ATP Tour title trophy in Adelaide last year, Kokkinakis went on to lose his first-round match at the Australian Open to German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann.
But the proud South Australian, while “praying” for a Tuesday start instead of Monday, is confident things are different this time around.
“This is the best I’ve felt ball striking-wise,” he said.
“Even when I go out for practice, I’m just feeling like I can kind of do what I want, and I haven’t had that feeling in a while.”