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Ten Sets of Swag: A Multimedia Analysis

A wild and whacky Day 1 of the 2015 Australian Open came to a thrilling conclusion – nay, exclamation point! – when two hometown favorites, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios, each claimed a thrilling five-set victory on adjacent courts. For the 18-year-old Kokkinakis, Monday night’s win over No. 11 seed Ernests Gulbis was the biggest of his young career, one that required every ounce of mental toughness from the former junior prodigy, who saved four match points to capture an 8-6 final set. Kyrgios, by contrast, is more familiar to the ATP scene, having reached the quarterfinals of last year’s Wimbledon Championships, but had to overcome physical struggles to take down unseeded Federico Delbonis 6-3 in the fifth.

With both matches finishing well into the night, it got me thinking: what does 10 sets played by the ATP’s next generation look like?

10 Sets of Serving

Combined, Kokkinakis and Kyrgios hit 37 aces over ten sets, nine of which were hit in a fifth set. Kyrgios only dropped serve twice, saving seven of nine break points faced, while Kokkinakis saved 14 of 21.

10 Sets of Shotmaking

The young Aussies treated tennis fans to a total of 103 winners, to just 93 errors. Though both employed high-risk tennis over arduous five-set slogs, each man managed to finish his match cleanly – or close to it; Kyrgios had a +11 differential to Kokkinakis’s -2.

10 Sets of Serious Drama

Kyrgios came to Melbourne under a cloud of injury concern; the 19-year-old was forced to drop out of Australia’s Hopman Cup team with a back injury. Despite pre-tournament protestations, it still appears to be an issue, as he called the trainer early in the match for treatment. And though the World No. 53 declared his emotional attitude a “work in progress” after incurring multiple penalties during his US Open first round, it looked more to be in the throws of an Ivanovician “process” when a busted racquet and audible outburst earned him a point penalty.

The drama on Show Court 3 had more to do with the scoreboard. After Kokkinakis dropped a tight opening set, he romped through a second set bagel in just over twenty minutes. Looking to have all the momentum, he immediately handed the initiative back to the French Open semifinalist, who nearly blanked his young opponent in kind to take a two-set lead. Down late in the fourth, the Adelaide native saved four match points in a titanic tenth game, and fought through a dramatic final set to clinch the win off of a Gulbis forehand error.

10 Sets of Screaming Fans

Tennis Australia hasn’t had a lot to cheer about, of late. Samantha Stosur may have been a Top 20 stalwart – even winning the US Open in 2011 – but since Lleyton Hewitt’s fairytale run to the 2005 Australian Open final, no Aussie man has quite captured the local fan’s imagination. With 2015 bringing not just one young hopeful, but two, everyone Down Under is – shall we say – a little excited.

10 Sets of Tweets

@TennisAustralia wasn’t the only one tracking Kokkinakis and Kyrgios with baited breath.

For Kokkinakis/Gulbis, Twitter be like:

For Kyrgios/Delbonis:

10 Sets of Celebrations

Make no mistake, folks: last night was a party in the A-U-S. Playing through the pain, Kyrgios had a few back-and-forths with the crowd – even silencing them at one point – but the youngster undoubtedly fed on their energy en route to victory. He dropped to his knees after the match in homage to his late grandmother, who passed away a short time after his first major breakthrough at the All-England Club.

For Kokkinakis, the mood was far less somber; a year after his first victory lap commemorating his first major main draw win, he repeated the effort after conquering Gulbis.

Andre Agassi bowed. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga gave the thumbs up. Thanasi Kokkinakis victory laps.

Different strokes.

Of course, no recap of Kokkinakis’s win would be complete without the now-infamous victory…worm?

10 Sets of Individuality

Let’s get serious, for a moment.

The ATP’s next generation gets a ton of flack. They’re too cocky, too showy, too emotional. They take the court in brightly colored outfits, talk out of turn, and lack the polish and finesse of a Big 4 to which the men’s game has become so accustomed. Some even fear a regime change, where “Big” is one day changed to “Brat.”

Quelle horreur, am I right?

But rather than wince and whine about the brashness of in-your-face youth, why not laud a generation of young men who are so unapologetically themselves? Nick Kyrgios takes the court wearing bright pink Beats headphones. Thanasi Kokkinakis sports a pierced ear and played over four hours of tennis wearing, well, whatever the heck it was that Nike dreamed up. Kyrgios accepted his Newcombe medal in a purple suit. His brother Christos may have been inelegant in his overall delivery, but he was right on one crucial point.

In a sport driven by overtones of hypermasculinity (and undertones of homophobia), Kyrgios and Kokkinakis are “doing things the sport has never seen” and “pushing the boundaries of possibility.” They’ve taken to tennis as they are, with no pretenses, and with a refreshing sense of self-awareness. Where the Twittersphere jokes about Kokkinakis’s day-glo aesthetic, he beamed with pride.

“I wore the stripes last year, but that was nothing compared to what I wore this year. … I was like ‘surely in this outfit I’ve got to get the win.'”

Kyrgios and Kokkinakis are hardly static characters. They may grow, change, and evolve into the statesmen and ambassadors some in the game would prefer they be. For now, they are what they have, and what they have is swag.

 

 

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About David Kane (138 Articles)
23-year-old tennis writer. Long Island raised me, @Twitter made me. My hindrances are deliberate; my whole life is thunder. @DKTNNS

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