Tennis News 2023: Novak Djokovic back on court playing doubles in Adelaide

Novak Djokovic is playing competitive tennis in Australia for the first time in two years. Fans have flocked to showcourt 1 to watch the 21-time grand slam champion in the doubles.

Novak Djokovic is on court in Australia for the first time in two years.

The 21-time grand slam champion’s Adelaide International has opened in the doubles, partnering Vasek Pospisil in a first round meeting with Gonzalo Escobar and Tomislav Brkic.

Hundreds of spectators flooded into showcourt 1 to watch the Serbian superstar in competitive action Down Under for the first time since he won the 2021 Australian Open.

Djokovic will begin his Adelaide International singles assault on Tuesday against Frenchman Constant Lestienne but fans have jumped at the chance to watch the nine-time Australian Open champion in action a day early.

Far from the heady highs of his singles career, Djokovic boasts a doubles win-loss record below 0.500 and has just one doubles title to his name.

However his doubles form will be of particular interest to Aussie fans, given both he and Nick Kyrgios have teased the possibility of them teaming together at Indian Wells later this year.

FIRST AUSSIE UP CRASHES OUT OF ADELAIDE INTERNATIONAL

The first Aussie up was also the first out of the Adelaide International on Monday, with Chris O’Connell falling to world No. 29 Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, 6-4 6-4.

Kecmanovic, who last year reached the fourth round of the Australian Open, broke O’Connell early in both sets and held the Aussie at arm’s length thereafter to ease into the second round.

The Serbian’s service game proved the difference between the two, with Kecmanovic wining 72 per cent of his second serve points to O’Connell’s 38 per cent.

Later this afternoon, Aussie wildcard Jaimee Fourlis will face Ukranian Marta Kostyuk, before Alexei Popyrin trades blows with Canadian sensation Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Jordan Thompson begins his 2023 assault against Frenchman Quentin Halys.

Hometown favorite Thanasi Kokkinakis is on center court after 8pm local time pit against big-serving American Maxime Cressy.

KOKKINAKIS READY TO DEFEND HIS CROWN IN ELITE ADELAIDE FIELD

Winning a maiden ATP title at his home event inflicted a major mental toll on Thanasi Kokkinakis that he says required some serious self-reflection to come back from.

Kokkinakis described last year’s Adelaide International victory as both “a blessing and a curse” given the incredible emotional highs that came crashing down only days later in an opening round exit at the Australian Open.

What the 26 year old labeled his “greatest week on tour” was quickly washed away by the disappointment of the early exit at Melbourne Park – and despite an incredible run to a Grand Slam doubles title with Nick Kyrgios, it only served to heighten the emotions .

“That was part of the reason I almost felt a little burnt out,” Kokkinakis revealed.

“I had such a whirlwind of a summer last year coming back from where I’d come from the past 4-5 years, to come full circle and reach my career high … I don’t know if that’s ever been done (in that way) before.

“I had a massive mental lull after that (Adelaide win). I’d kind of achieved what I wanted to at that point.

“Even though I lost and I was pretty cooked for the Australian Open, I still wouldn’t change it.”

It’s long been a question of what-if for Kokkinakis, whose career has been riddled with regular injury setbacks.

Rejoining the tour as a regular in 2022 was a foreign feeling for the South Australian and he admitted to struggling with the day to day rigours, something he plans to remedy this year.

“The tennis tour is tough especially for Australians, I think that’s well-documented. Last year was my first year on tour in a long time just traveling and playing week-in, week-out and I struggled with that,” he said.

“I struggled with seeing guys playing every week and they were hungry – hungry every week – and to get my ranking up that’s where I need to get to. That’s the mentality I need, which I haven’t quite had yet (so) I’m going to focus on that this year.”

He may be back home in the familiar confines of Memorial Drive but the pressure is well and truly on Kokkinakis entering 2023.

He has semi-final points to defend in the opening week and a title in the second, pit against the strongest field the Adelaide International has ever featured.

“Yeah it’s absurd, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 250 this strong,” he said.

“Holger (Rune) is what, 11th in the world, and he’s the five seed? I mean, for a 250 that’s insane. This is strong for a 500 event let alone a 250.

“It could be a Masters – in some ways it’s tougher, because the draw is smaller so you almost play a high ranked player earlier on.

“I guess there’s pressure on (me) because I’m the defending champ. (People are asking), ‘are you going to do it again’ but I don’t think they realize how hard that is. That’s my best tournament ever and it’s happened in I don’t know how many years of tennis I’ve played, so it’s not like, ‘yeah I’ll defend it, no worries’.”

Kokkinakis begins his home assault with a tough first round match-up against American Maxime Cressy.

The pair have only met twice previously on tour, with Cressy winning their most recent encounter at the 2021 Wimbledon qualifiers.

“It’s going to be tricky, he’s obviously improved a lot over the past year,” Kokkinakis said.

“(Cressy is) a big server, on the quick court it’s going to be tricky. Both of us serve well and he makes it tough for his opponent, I can’t get into too much rhythm he doesn’t let you, he comes in and blankets the net really well so it’s going to be a tricky match.”

Get past Cressy and a second round meeting with world number 15 Jannik Sinner likely awaits. And the road to the final doesn’t get much easier from there, with a swathe of top-20 players littered throughout the draw and a man named Novak Djokovic potentially waiting in the final.

“You want to test yourself against the best. It’s a hell of a field these next two weeks. (I will) know where my game is at over these next two weeks and hopefully coming into the Aussie Open there’s no shocks or surprises,” Kokkinakis said.

“It’s obviously tough in regards to me defending my points from last year. I have a big chunk coming in these two weeks, but I didn’t play much at the back end of last year so I’ve got a lot of time to get those points back and do even better.”

Originally published as Adelaide International: Follow the news and results from Adelaide here

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