Kokkinakis withdraws from exhibition

Shoulder soreness that has forced Thanasi Kokkinakis to withdraw from a scheduled exhibition match with retiring legend Lleyton Hewitt isn’t expected to disrupt the rest of the teenage ace’s summer plans.

Kokkinakis’s medical team have advised the 19-year-old against rushing back after taking time out to rest his serving arm following a demanding 2015 campaign.

Event promoter David Drysdale said Kokkinakis’s scratching from next Friday’s exhibition match in Hobart was merely precautionary.

“I think he’ll be fine,” Drysdale said after calling in big-serving Sam Groth, the newly crowned Newcombe Medallist, as a replacement for Kokkinakis.

“Thanasi has had problems with his right shoulder and only commenced hitting again this week and, as much as he still wanted to come and play, after talking with his team last night, it was agreed that in Thanasi’s best interests for the Australian summer, it was safer that he withdrew.

“He wants to take it slowly and his medical team also thought playing a full-on match might be too much too soon.

“The great thing was I then rang Sam and he agreed on the spot to take Thanasi’s place.”

Kokkinakis played 32 top-level matches in 2015, including all four grand slam events, for the first time.

His workload followed just nine matches with the big boys last year.

Drysdale, Hewitt’s manager, said Kokkinakis still planned to spend a few days hitting with the former world No.1 in the week before Christmas.

Groth, who has the fastest serve on record at 263km/h, has enjoyed his best year to date, reaching a career-high No.53 and establishing himself as a key member of Australia’s Davis Cup team.

The 27-year-old has had wins over a number of top-30 players this year, and defeated Hewitt in January in Brisbane.

“It’s always an honour to play against Lleyton and I’m looking forward to doing so in Hobart next week,” Groth said.

“It will be a great hit-out for me, and my only real match practice leading into the Australian summer, so I will be going full steam for sure.”

Hewitt, who will retire after next month’s Australian Open, thanked Groth for agreeing to play.

“It is the best decision for Thanasi to ensure he is right for January,” said Australia’s new Davis Cup captain.

The special exhibition match will be played on December 18 at the Domain Tennis Centre.

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