Wimbledon 2022: Nick Kyrgios' straight man falls flat against imperious Novak Djokovic

When Nick Kyrgios won a first Grand Slam title back in January his doubles partner was hailed as “the only guy who can calm him down”.

So where, apoplectic All England Club bosses might have wondered, was Thanasi Kokkinakis on Tuesday when the wild man of tennis exploded, spitting at a fan and abusing officials?

The answer is that Kokkinakis had important business in the Wimbledon singles as he prepared to face No1 seed Novak Djokovic.

Maybe no one could have prevented Kyrgios from self-combusting, as he’s done throughout his career, but his fellow Australian certainly gelled with him at the pair’s home Open in Melbourne, with Kyrgios quipping about the influence of the other member of the so-called Special Ks: “I’m getting up at 7am every day. Never been so professional.”

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Not that their charge to the title was incident-free. The fitness trainer of beaten opponents earlier in the competition, accusing Kyrgios of hitting a ball at one of his men, threatened to fight the pair. The raucous crowd noise whipped up by the Special Ks was criticised in the semi-final and again in the final, when fans had to be ejected by stewards.

Kokkonakis is due to revive the doubles partnership today but in yesterday’s first game on Centre he was on best behaviour and, alas for the Kyrgios-curious in the crowd, quite flat.

To be fair, Djokovic could have done that to many. His scratchy performance on opening day was thoroughly banished by a ruthless 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 victory. Yesterday marked 1,812 days since the champion, going for four titles in a row, last lost in SW19. Andy Murray has had three kids in that time, for goodness sake.

The 26-year-old Kokkinakis - Adelaide-born to parents of Greek descent and with a highest-ever ranking of 69 - didn’t really look like making overtures in the direction of a shock. He was distracted by breaking a string in the very first game. Players of course come armed with many rackets but this was his lucky one and so he handed it a ball-girl for speedy dispatch to the restringer. But the first set, Djokovic cruising, passed in a blur for him so there seemed little chance of it coming back to him before the end.

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Thou shalt not pass me ... Djokovic at his elastic best.

“He looks pretty unbeatable” said John McEnroe as the Serb doubled his advantage. With his earring and butterfly tattoos on the thigh, Kokkinakis promised flair, but Djokovic’s famed elasticity was showing no signs of deterioration and try as he might the Aussie couldn’t place the ball out of his reach.

Afterwards Djnokovic who’ll next play fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic, said: “I’m pleased with the way I’ve raised my level of tennis in two days. Hopefully I can improve even more.”

Kokkinakis’ take? “It was like playing a wall. Jeez, he does everything right.” And what did he make of his mucker’s blow-up? “I didn’t see it. I didn’t know Nick spat,” he said. “You don’t want to be spitting too much but I didn’t see it. Nick’s his own man. When he plays it’s always a drama. But you’ve got to keep it within reason.”

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Thanasi Kokkinakis couldn't make a dent in the Serb champ's game.
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