Usually we have to wait a little longer – and have missed tennis a little more – before getting a preview of the sunshine and beautiful blue courts Down Under.
But on Monday, a UTR event kicked off at Melbourne Park.
And two faces that haven’t been seen for awhile – new mom Samantha Stosur and the long-injured Thanasi Kokkinanis – got back into competition. They’re using the far back practice courts at Melbourne Park (Nos. 24 and up), located right next to the indoor facility.
Watch them on YouTube
Tennis Australia is running a stream on its YouTube site.
There are two pools of four on the men’s side, playing a round-robin format. On the women’s side, there are two pools of three.
In addition to Stosur, Daria Gavrilova and Storm Standers are also taking part.
The action begins at 9:30 a.m. each day (5:30 p.m. ET the night before back in Eastern North America).
Kokkinakis’s match starts at three hours into Monday’s stream (you can back it up).
Stosur starts at about an hour and 25 minutes into the stream.(No spoilers here)
Last up is Omar Jasika, who is always entertaining.
Another comeback for Kokkinakis
Kokkinakis’s ranking still sits at No. 255. But he hasn’t played in more than a year. The last time was when he reached the final of a Challenger in Tiburon, Calif. in Sept. 2019.
That effort raised his ranking to No. 161. But he’s been idle since because of a pectoral injury. And not for the first time.
It all began with surgery to his right shoulder in Dec. 2015. Kokkinakis was a 19-year-old on the come-up back then.
He played just one match all of 2016 – a first-round loss at the Olympics in Rio. A pectoral strain was the culprit there.Kokkinakis played just one match all of 2016 – at the Olympics in Rio. (Stephanie Myles/OpenCourt.ca)
He returned in Brisbane early in 2017 and won his first ATP doubles title. And then he was gone another 18 weeks.
Ranked No .698, he returned for the grass season and shocked No. 6 Milos Raonic at Queen’s Club. But after reaching the final at Los Cabos in early August, and losing to Janko Tipsarevic in the first round of the US Open, he was done for the year.
Back in 2018 for the Australian Open, he upset Roger Federer in Miami and played most of the season despite a left ankle injury, and a knee injury.
In 2019 he played well – when he played. But the right shoulder was acting up again. And the right pectoral. That Tiburon Challenger was the last time he competed.
It’s been a crazy ride. But he’s still only 24. Perhaps the long shutdown in 2020 came at the right time for him.