Playing US Open doubles with Nick Kyrgios is one thing, but Thanasi Kokkinakis wants no part in any new-age tennis brat pack with Australia’s fallen star.
More than thirty years after John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Ilie Nastase raged against officialdom, Kyrgios is being dubbed the new bad boy of the sport after a series of infractions at Wimbledon and his now-infamous verbal taunting of Stan Wawrinka in Montreal.
Kyrgios on Saturday said he’d learnt his lesson and promised to lift his act after being hit with a suspended ban and fine for “aggravated behaviour”.
Regardless of which way Kyrgios goes, good mate Kokkinakis wants to remain known as a cleanskin after former Davis Cup captain and Australian of the Year Pat Rafter branded the teenager “our role model, our Australian tennis pin-up boy” at Wimbledon.
“I haven’t done anything to be a bad boy. I’m just doing my own thing and whatever,” Kokkinakis said ahead of his first-round clash at Flushing Meadows on Tuesday with Richard Gasquet.
“To be honest, it’s pretty comical when I read the headlines and they bunch it together like that.
“But everyone’s going to write what they want to write. Until people read the article and what actually happened, then they can make an opinion.
“But when they categorise it, it does annoy me a little bit.
“But it’s pretty funny so I try not too worry about it.”
The laidback 19-year-old was unfairly dragged into Kyrgios’s dark on-court antics when Kyrgios told French Open champion Stan Wawrinka at this month’s Montreal Masters that “Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend. Sorry to tell you that, mate”.
While Kyrgios has been fined and heavily sanctioned, Kokkinakis has also suffered.
He almost came to blows with Ryan Harrison after the American in turn sledged Kokkinakis, effectively tarring the South Australian with the same brush as Kyrgios.
“I’m just playing tennis and trying to avoid all the rubbish,” Kokkinakis said.
“Obviously it was weird what he (Kyrgios) did. He shouldn’t have done it, of course.
“But I’m fine with him. I talked with him, he apologised to me. It’s all good, we’re past it now and we’ve just got to move on.”
Partners at Melbourne Park this year, Kokkinakis and Kyrgios – the 2013 Wimbledon junior doubles champions – are teaming up in New York for the first time.