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Philippoussis joins Team Kokkinakis

Tennis

Thanasi Kokkinakis has turned to Mark Philippoussis for added inspiration and grasscourt intellect in his concerted attempt to make a Wimbledon impact.

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South Australia’s one-time teenage prodigy returns to the All England Club – where he won the junior doubles crown in 2013 with Nick Kyrgios – as the world No.498 after a depressing near-two-year battle with injury.

But after taking down Milos Raonic, last year’s runner-up and world No.6 at the Queen’s Club lead-up event, Kokkinakis has suddenly re-emerged as a dangerous young talent to avoid, ahead of his first-round blockbuster with Juan Martin del Potro on Tuesday.

And now even more so following the 21-year-old’s commissioning of Philippoussis as a special Wimbledon consultant.

Runner-up to Roger Federer in the 2003 title decider on London’s hallowed lawns, Philippoussis is passionately – and vocally – adding the finishing touches to one of the sport’s hottest young prospects.

The dual grand slam finalist spent several days last week at The Boodles pre-Wimbledon exhibition event cajoling Kokkinakis into adopting a more aggressive approach to the unique challenges that grasscourt tennis throw up.

Specifically, he wants Kokkinakis to better utilise his big serve and forehand – the same deadly weapons that Philippoussis himself deployed to beat a dozen different world No.1s during a successful but unfulfilled grand slam career – to ensure the South Australian lives up to his own rich potential.

Still working chiefly with long-time coach Todd Langman, Kokkinakis credited his part-time mentor’s influence as decisive in his comeback win over Damir Dzumhur and indicated he was open to more regular input from Philippoussis.

“He’s helped me for a long time, just like in and out whenever he can. Obviously he’s very busy with his own things,” Kokkinakis said.

“But Indian Wells a few years ago he was out there watching and he’s always sending me messages of encouragement.

“Someone like that, obviously it helps having them around for a little.

“But you want to have it day in, day out to see what he can bring. It’s tough to make a massive change in two, three days but we’re going to have a crack.

“It’s good having him there. He’s just a good guy, first of all, and he’s a legend in the sport, especially in Australia.”

-AAP 

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