Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis have formed a deadly partnership. (Photo: Tennis Australia)

The Inner Sanctum columnist Sam Tugwell says the tandem of Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios are changing the game of tennis.

Nobody saw this coming, and boy has it got Australia talking.

Try convincing anybody two weeks ago that doubles tennis would be the hottest ticket in town at this year’s Australian Open – an impossible task.

Yet, the Aussie tandem dubbed ‘Special K’ has taken the tennis world by storm. It’s been fun. It’s been fiery. And it’s been controversial.

The pair have clocked up TV viewing numbers equivalent to primetime singles events, normally featuring the world’s top ranked players.

Yet they’ve managed to achieve mass attention around the country in usually neglected early round doubles timeslots, late on weekday afternoons.

Incredibly, even the host broadcaster switched out Rafael Nadal’s thrilling 5-set Quarter Final match to air the duo’s entertaining antics on Tuesday evening.

And lets keep in mind too, this is the world number 115 & 103 we’re talking about – nothing that looks overly appealing on paper.


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But what is their appeal? Simply put – they just don’t care.

These guys have lost their care for tradition of old-school conventions of tennis; it’s now showtime.

You can tell by their attitude – putting on a display of ‘street tennis’ if you will – fast, unconventional, and are proudly playing for the love of the game.

All the pressure is off. They have the embrace of a country’s full support inside a uniquely packed arena with passionate fans all dressed up and chanting at the top of their lungs for their fellow Aussies.

“Sink piss and come here” – the new attitude of the boys who just want to have fun.

We love our Aussies on the world stage, no question about it, especially when they’re winning.

But ironically, on the flip side, it’s a trait of ours to also want our stars to be likeable and respectful.

Take Ash Barty for example, she’s a shining star that embodies the perfect sporting role model, impressing time and time again with the way she carries herself whenever she takes to centre court to represent our country.

Thanasi Kokkinakis – one half of the Special K combo – couldn’t be more likeable and respectful.

His wins throughout his Adelaide International campaign earlier this month reflected his all-round class.

However, his doubles partner over the years (let’s be real) has not been everybody’s cup of tea.

Nick Kyrgios has made a name for himself on court as a ‘bad boy’, showing disrespectful and somewhat childish antics, angering fans around the globe.

His irrational behaviour has often been frowned up on by the tennis public – but just like any sport, winning seems to heal all wounds.

And despite a racquet throw in the Quarter Final, Kyrgios’ brutally powerful forehands and lightning-quick serve has mostly masked over the ugly cracks of his past.

Which now leaves many Australians experiencing a rather confronting feeling…

Are we backflipping on our values we hold for our sporting stars? Are we watching on like a guilty pleasure, enjoying the feeling of letting our hair down?

Maybe we are, and maybe that’s okay.

Eyeballs are glued to their television sets with the fascination of ‘what’s going to happen next?’ …and it’s kind of refreshing.

Their New Zealand opponent in the Quarter Final, Michael Venus labelled Kyrgios an “absolute knob” believing it “felt like a circus out there and not really a tennis match.”

“You know if it’s on the other foot, old mate [Kyrgios] would have flipped his lid.”

And it’s true, he probably would have.

But at the end of the day, we love to be entertained, and sport is always better when there’s a high level of unpredictability.

Yes, I feel conflicted. I’ve never been a huge fan of Kyrgios. But I have always been a fan of sporting stars giving it their all and putting on a show for the fans.

And so far, it’s hard to deny that they’ve left anything off the court.

Kyrgios & Kokkinakis face their biggest challenge yet on Thursday afternoon at 2pm when they tackle the tournament’s number three seeded pair in the Australian Open Semi Final at Rod Laver Arena.

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