TENNIS: Thanasi Kokkinakis has opened up on the darkest days of his injury-plagued 15 months that restricted him to just one competitive match last year.
The 20-year-old Aussie talent faces friend Jordan Thompson at the Sydney International on Tuesday, just two days after the pair won the men's doubles title at the Brisbane International in Kokkinakis's long-awaited return.
While Kokkinakis missed a wildcard entry to the Australian Open, he suggested he has a way to go to reach full fitness for singles matches after issues with his shoulder, pectoral muscle and groin.
"I don't have high expectations. I know what my level is capable of, but the biggest thing for me, and it's going to continue to be this same goal for the next years of my tennis, is just to stay as healthy as possible and do what's best for my body,” Kokkinakis said.
Asked about the dark days during his rehabilitation, Kokkinakis replied: "There were a couple. I will just take you through a couple main ones.
"Firstly, when my surgeon said I'd be probably almost ready to go by around Indian Wells time [in March], and ended up being, like, triple that.
"Then it was after I had done a long rehab program and not serving for about 12 weeks, and then feeling pretty confident with everything and then serving on that 12th week, and then it feeling horrendous, lost my marbles there.
"And then when I was ready to go again, after Rio, I was training in Florida and tore my pec.
"I got back in Melbourne, I was, like, all right, I'm going to train here and probably get ready to play some weaker tournaments in America, just to get some matches up.
"And after I injured my upper body, I was doing a lot of running out of frustration, and then I got a scan and got osteitis pubis.
"That was what I'm battling up until now. That's been pretty good lately. Just all those little setbacks.”
Kokkinakis described that period as the toughest of his young career.
"It was brutal, the lowest I have been, for sure, in my career,” he said.
"I mean, I had some injuries and stress fractures when I was 15 and 17, and they took me out for a while, but nothing compared to what I went through [last] year.
"I'm trying to look at it as a bit of a blessing, but I still remember how long it took and just how many setbacks I had.
"The hardest thing for me through the whole year was almost being ready and feeling like I'm not too far off but still being a ways to go.
"I felt like I was a constant yellow light for a year and a half, and then when things started to feel good, something else. I guess that's the body trying to compensate for injuries.
"But I'm more aware of my body now. Maybe in the past I thought something initially was just a little niggle, thought it would go away, I'm taking a bit more care now.
"I used to kind of have it out with people who were spending heaps in the treatment rooms and just abusing the physios, but unfortunately I think I'm going to have to be one of those guys now. I see why they do it.”
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