Australian tennis star Thanasi Kokkinakis described Rafael Nadal as “one of the best competitors” out there as he is hoping to clash the Spaniard at the Australian Open
Nadal, a 20-time Grand Slam champion, was forced to skip the last two Grand Slams due to a foot issue.
Nadal, 35, ended his 2021 season in August due to a foot issue.
Nadal enjioyed a winning return to the courts last week as he made it all the way at the Melbourne Summer Set.
“Rafael Nadal is so resilient. What he’s been able to do over the years is nothing short of impressive,” Kokkinakis said, per Sportskeeda. “Just to stay motivated after all he’s done, to just keep wanting more and wanting to play. It just shows the love of the game. He’s one of the best competitors there is.”
Kokkinakis recalls the Nadal clash
Kokkinakis won his first Australian Open when he was just 17.
Kokkinakis then suffered a straight-set defeat to Nadal in the 2014 Australian Open second round.
“I thought I didn’t do too bad honestly. I had like a little sniff here and there,” Kokkinakis said. “Obviously he was the way better player. I had only a couple chances.”
Kokkinakis was scheduled to clash Nadal in the 2019 US Open second round but an injury forced him to give Nadal a walkover.
“I kind of re-tore my pec in that US Open [first round] match that I didn’t realize,” Kokkinakis said. “I would have played Rafa again on Arthur Ashe. I was pretty shattered I had to miss that.”
Kokkinakis could meet Nadal in the Australian Open second round if both win their respective first round matches.
“I’ll focus on here. I’m not looking past the qualifier. Obviously a lot of great players,” Kokkinakis said. “It would be good if I could win and get another shot at Rafa.”