Photo: Susan MullaneNick Kyrgios (AUS)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA: Australians have won three of the past six boys’ titles at Melbourne Park and two of the country’s brightest hopes to join them, Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis made convincing starts to their campaigns on Sunday.
Third seed Kyrgios beat Cem Ikel of Turkey 63 61 while 16-year-old Kokkinakis took out 12th seed Thai-Son Kwiatkowski from the United States 75 64. Krygios and Kokkinakis later teamed up for victory in the first round of the boys’ doubles but both have designs on the singles crown, with the help of the home crowd.
“It definitely helps us,” 17-year-old Kyrgios said. “Us being Greek as well, there’s a big Greek community as well in Melbourne. I think the more support, the better. More energy. I definitely like it. I’m sure Thanasi does too.”
Kyrgios won two junior grand slam doubles titles in 2012 but has struggled to make an impact in singles. However, victory in last week’s Grade 1 Loy Yang Traralgon tournament means he went into the Australian Open full of confidence that he can improve in 2013.
“I guess every time I’ve lost I’ve been a bit mentally out of it,” Kyrgios admitted. “Hopefully I am a lot stronger and fitter this year and I’m obviously playing pretty well, winning last week, so I’m playing well and hopefully I’ll have a good run.
“I’m working with Des Tyson, my coach, who’s goodmentally. It’s a good mix; I’m quite outgoing and emotional and he’s been keeping me calm. And I’ve been working on and off with a psychologist so I’m sure it all helps.
Kokkanakis shot to fame when he stood in for American John Isner at the Hopman Cup at the start of the month and came within a few points of taking a set off Spain’s Fernando Verdasco and played mixed doubles with Venus Williams.
Expectations are high that he could be the next big thing in Australian tennis and said he was beginning to come to terms with the extra attention he’s receiving.
“It’s been a bit surprising,” he admitted. “I don’t know why I’ve got quite so much coverage because today was my first win for the year. But it’s good to have some people looking out for me and having a bit of expectation, it’s good to play with a bit of pressure.
“Today was my first junior grand slam win. I’m trying not to play any junior tournaments - I’m trying to get in the other slams with my ATP ranking (758) – so hopefully if I do OK here I won’t need to be in qualifying for the other slams.
“Today, I didn’t play as well as I’d have liked but it’s good to get the nerves out of the way and beat a pretty high quality player.”
Second seed Gianluigi Quinzi (ITA) also looked good in his first round beating another Australian Bradley Mousley 64 60. Some of the Italian newspapers have suggested Quinzi is the next Roger Federer but the 16-year-old said he was doing his best to handle the hype.
“Expectations are high but I stay in my house and stay calm and my Dad does all the other stuff,” he said. “It is tough but it’s like Roger, he’s winning but he gets used to the pressure. I think I can win a grand slam. I need to stay aggressive and play my game.”
Fifth seed Elias Ymer of Sweden was a surprise casualty as he was ousted 64 60 by Ku Keon Kang of Korea and another Korean, 15th seed Seon Chang Hong, was also beaten 36 64 61 by Australian Omar Jasika.
In the girls’ event, second seed Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic, favourite for the title after the withdrawal of No 1 seed Yulia Putintseva, had to battle harder than expected to reach round two, coming from behind to beat South Africa’s Ilze Hattingh 36 62 64.
Eighth seed Elise Mertens of Belgium and No 13 Katy Dunne from Great Britain were among the day’s other first-round winners.