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Moments That Matter with Thanasi Kokkinakis: On Tour with a Tennis Star

Moments That Matter | By | 24 Dec 2021 | 5 minute read

Welcome to Moments That Matter, a series dedicated to the seemingly small steps that, when combined, have a major impact. We don’t often look back on our day-to-day, but it’s these very moments that ladder up to something more. Here at SafetyCulture, we’re grounded in practice — the details that go into the doing. Join us as we chat to those at the top of their fields about the moments that helped make them. 

Meet the comeback kid of Australian tennis, Thanasi Kokkinakis. He might strike a familiar chord with tennis fans and our SafetyCulture community — ahead of the Australian Open 2022, Kokkinakis made waves with a triumphant return to his home turf, winning his maiden ATP title at Adelaide International. His win in Adelaide will leave him knocking on the door of the top 100 — but he had to overcome some serious obstacles to get there.

Those in the sport are no strangers to his journey. Last year Kokkinakis made a strong comeback to tennis after a series of challenging injuries, reaching the second round of the Australian Open 2021 and pushing world No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas to five sets. At the same time, we swung into action to throw our support behind one of the most exciting prospects Australian tennis has to offer. You may have seen a thing or two about it on the news!

Over the last few months, our logo hit the road with Kokkinakis as he competed in tournaments overseas. Now the tennis player and SafetyCulture ambassador is back in Melbourne prepping for his home Grand Slam, having nabbed his best year-end ranking in three years. 

We couldn’t be more excited to see what’s in store for Kokkinakis as he heads to the Australian Open with SafetyCulture in his court (and on his sleeve), so we popped in between practice sessions to chat about what it takes to make it in tennis. 

First things first — how did you get your start in tennis? 

I started on the tour very young and got my first ranking as a 14-year-old playing in Bundaberg. As my career progressed, I made my way up the rankings. I was able to start competing in some Grand Slam events as a 17-year-old and along the way managed to reach a tour final as well as winning a couple of challenger tournaments. It was then that I reached my career-high ranking of 69 in the world. As I make my way back from injury, all I’m focused on is bettering these results! Big thanks to SafetyCulture’s ongoing support and partnership on this road as well. I feel proud to have an Aussie brand in my corner backing me all the way. 

SafetyCulture has been working with Tennis Australia as the official Workplace Operations Partner for the Australian Open. We look after the day-to-day operations on court — so you can focus on the gameplay! So talk us through how you operate pre-matches — what are the small details that get you in the right headspace before you head onto the court?

The main thing is to have all my equipment ready so I do not need to think about anything when I am on the court — that means everything from shoes to enough restrung racquets. I need to make sure I have enough gels in my bag and electrolyte drinks if needed. I like to do a good physical warm-up prior to playing also. We often play at different times of the day and have to be adaptable to conditions and times, so it is great to have a routine but being adaptable is key as well.

DID YOU KNOW SafetyCulture’s technology has been expanded across the running of the AO – from training for ballkids, through to weather alerts and construction inspections. Read more here.  

Getting the Australian Open off the ground in 2021 was a huge logistical feat and you’ve played on the international circuit since then. How have safe sporting events evolved for the better?

It is certainly very different now from how it was, but the tournaments are making great efforts to keep us safe which gives me more confidence to feel secure in the environment. We feel lucky to still be able to earn a living but certainly, miss the interaction with crowds. Playing in front of big crowds is one of the most exciting things for a player to do, so I’m really looking forward to the chance to do it again at the Australian Open!

Tennis can look like a solitary sport from the outset — how does teamwork play a part in success?

Teamwork is massive for a player even though it is in an individual sport. No top tennis players get there on their own. It takes a lot of dedication, hard work, and a good group of people pushing me to focus, prepare and become the best I can be. 

Everything from a coach, physio, fitness trainer needs to be on the same page. There is also family support as it is a huge commitment from a young age to get to the professional level. It is great to know you have all of their support so you don’t feel like you are on your own out there. 

I think feedback is very important too. It’s great to have an extra set of eyes giving you feedback as sometimes in the heat of a match you may miss things that are obvious to others. Tennis matches usually come down to one or two points, so any small advantage helps. I have a coach with me at all events to watch and support me; it’s great to ask questions and have those conversations to make sure we are always on the same page. 

All in all, I am yet to get to where I want to be… but it’s a work in progress and I do feel like I am getting there!

What are the moments that have mattered most to you — ones that have gotten you through to where you are today? 

It takes so much discipline when being away and having to perform at a high level every week. It can be very tiring. Staying mentally tough through these times has not been easy and I have questioned myself a lot over time. I often think of the great times I have had on-court and remind myself of these moments to maintain my belief. 

We loved seeing you share the court with Kyrgios at the last Australian Open… so let’s talk dream teams. Who is your dream doubles partner?

I would love to play with Roger Federer one time. He is such a legend and his game would be amazing in doubles. 

What music do you listen to when walking on court before a match?

Depends a bit on what mood I am in! If I am feeling a little flat I would play something more uptempo, like house music. If I am feeling really up I may listen to something more mellow to keep me calm. I even listen to RnB sometimes. 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Pretty simple but just to enjoy what I am doing. Have fun and try to improve every day. If you are not enjoying each day it will be hard to get the most out of yourself and continue to improve.

What are your goals for the Australian Open in 2022?

My goal for the AO next year would be to come into the event in the best physical condition I can possibly be in and make a deep run. I know if I am as fit as I can be it will give me the best chance of doing well.

The Australian Open returns in 2022 with SafetyCulture as its official Workplace Operations Partner. Here’s how it all comes together to bring you the event of the summer!

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