29/02/2024

Nick Kyrgios celebrates on his way to the men's doubles final with Thanasi Kokkinakis. (Photo: @josemorgado)

It may not be how Australia once thought it would happen, but Nick Kyrgios is one match away from being a Grand Slam champion - alongside best mate Thanasi Kokkinakis.

It may not be how Australia once thought it would happen, but Nick Kyrgios is one match away from being a Grand Slam champion – alongside best mate Thanasi Kokkinakis.

This isn’t a flash-in-the-pan partnership between the wild card Australians. The very best assets of their singles games have amalgamated on-court superbly. They’ve brought – amongst others – the best doubles team in the world down on their way to a maiden Grand Slam final.

Debate has surrounded the raucous crowds that have turned out over the past fortnight for Kyrgios and Kokkinakis’ matches. It’s overshadowed their performances on-court, which have been spectacular from the very outset.

Regardless of the possibility they bow out in the final, this Australian duo is capable of claiming multiple Grand Slams in the men’s doubles with their monstrous serves, silky net play, and braggadocious chemistry.

The world’s best serving tandem

If Kyrgios was gifted with the movement to the net of a Roger Federer, he’d be the best serve-and-volley player on the men’s tour. Fortunately for him, in doubles Kokkinakis lies in waiting as the enigmatic Aussie paints the service box ‘T’ with thunderbolts.

Kyrgios’ serve is world class, and it’s an asset that reigns supreme in doubles with his teammate cleaning up the scrambling returns at the net.

He holds a place in the top-30 fastest recorded serves ever (from Wimbledon 2019), and his serving at all matches in the Australian Open this year has been the best in the world.

Kokkinakis is dominant from the baseline too, firing 200kmh-plus bullets with Kyrgios waiting to spring up and smash home.

Against third seeds Horacio Zeballos and Marcel Granollers, the Aussie pair won 79 per cent of their first-serve points on their way to 13 aces. On second serves that number drops to 62 per cent.

So long as a good percentage of their first serves are finding the service box, Kyrgios and Kokkinakis will have no issue holding up their end of the bargain on serve, and these games are often closed out quickly.

The ease of their service games heaps the pressure back on their opposition duo. It’s that pressure that coerced first seeds Nikola Mektić and Mate Pavić into going for broke down a set in the second round.

In their biggest upset of the tournament, Kyrgios and Kokkinakis won all of their second set games to either love or 15. At the other end, the Croats faced four deuces and four break points as they battled to hold out their serve.

The Aussies upset the number one seeds with an 82 per cent first serve win-rate and continually capitalised on shots that the best doubles team in the world didn’t want to play as they searched for answers.

The most underrated aspect of Kyrgios’ game

For years pundits on the ATP tour have been asking why Nick Kyrgios doesn’t approach the net more often. His win percentages are always good, and he passes the eye test with flying colours.

It’s the most underrated facet of his game. His reaction speed, coupled with his hand-eye coordination and soft touch gives him the ability to clinically finish any balls in his wide-reaching radius.

He’s uncompromising at the net with an elegant ferocity; with a flick of the wrist he’s sent the ball rocketing down into the court and back up, arcing over his opponents and into the applauding crowd.

We haven’t seen it enough in the singles, but in the doubles it’s been a joy to watch.

It’s a rare occurrence when the Aussies’ service games have lasted more than two shots. When first serves are dropping in, the ball inevitably finds its way to a ripping volley at the net.

It takes a special return for a rally to ensue. Either a ripping cross-court shot from the baseline, or perfectly-placed down-the-line lob gets their opponents into the point and from there they can advance on the net or work the ball from the baseline – easier said than done.

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Could the best mates dominate the doubles tour?

It’s one thing for two elite singles players to play together, but the obvious chemistry, love and passion that Kyrgios and Kokkinakis have displayed all tournament is what needs to live on if they’re to make a real fist of the doubles life.

Speaking after the semi-final, Kyrgios wasn’t so sure they’d have the same level of success elsewhere.

“Playing in front of you guys brings out the best. I don’t know if we would have this result anywhere else,” he said.

The incredible home-crowd atmosphere has without a doubt pulled the wild card pairing along this wild ride. But there remains huge upside for this duo around the world.

With their serving ability and touch around the net, Wimbledon is a realistic target as well. In the singles Kyrgios has a quarter-final appearance on the grass courts, while Kokkinakis has made a third round back in 2015 and will fancy an improvement on that performance this season.

With the low bounce of the ball, high winner-rate and huge ace totals available at the All England Club, the Aussies could dominate the men’s doubles Slam there as well. Given their reception this year, it’s hard not to envision them back in the Australian Open draw next year, too.

For now though, all eyes will be on Rod Laver Arena as four Aussies take to the court in a historic Australian Open men’s doubles final.

Once labelled Australia’s next champion in the men’s tour, Kyrgios could yet be a Grand Slam champion in partnership with best mate Kokkinakis.

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