Thanasi Kokkinakis is back – sort of – because even though he is about to play his first ATP Tour singles match in 15 months, he knows his shoulder isn’t 100 per cent.
Kokkinakis also is far from certain as to whether he will contest the Australian Open.
But the 20-year-old South Australian is just happy to be back on court.
The former world No.69 will decide whether to contest the year’s opening grand slam at the conclusiong of the Sydney International, which begins on Sunday.
“Obviously I want to play but honestly it’s 50-50 at the moment because I know how much of a step up five sets is,” Kokkinakis said.
“If I don’t play singles I want to play the doubles at least, maybe even mixed (at Melbourne).”
For now, a return is as good as a victory for Kokkinakis.
He was only supposed to be sidelined for three months when he underwent a shoulder reconstruction in December 2015.
But he didn’t return to the court until 10 months later when he contested the Rio Olympics before yet more setbacks.
His first round 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-3) Rio loss to Portuguese world No.81 Gastao Elias was his only match of 2016.
Asked how he stayed positive during his long rehabilitation, Kokkinakis said: “I didn’t.
“I was trying to. The worst part about it was the dates I had set (for a return)… just kept getting pushed back and back and back.
“Then once one thing got better, something else went and vice versa.
“I’m still not where I want to be physically. I think I’m still a fair way away.
“But this is a good time to be a tennis player in Australia.”
Kokkinakis’s goals are understandably modest.
“To come out injury free. That’s my expectation for the year and the next year and the year after that because I have missed way too much time,” he said.
“There’s nothing worse than when you’re an athlete and for that to be taken away and your best friend being a TheraBand (stretching band).”
By rights, Kokkinakis should be a little rusty on his opponents after more than a year on the sidelines.
But he won’t have to do much research on his first round Sydney rival ahead of his singles comeback – it’s his doubles partner Jordan Thompson.
Both Kokkinakis and Thompson discovered they had drawn each other in Sydney moments before they took the court together at the Brisbane International doubles semi-finals on Saturday.
The wildcard pair cruised into the men’s doubles final with a 6-3 6-1 win over fourth-seeded pair Daniel Nestor and Edouard Roger-Vasselin at Pat Rafter Arena.
“Literally five minutes before we went on (they found out about Sydney draw),” Kokkinakis laughed.
“We looked at each other and laughed.
“It’s obviously pretty crazy (for) doubles partners and wildcards to draw each other but that’s the tour.”