Australian Open 2022 | Nick Kyrgios, Thanasi Kokkinakis altercation, doubles hopes analysis, Todd Woodbridge

Tennis

Doubles legend Todd Woodbridge has played down the locker room altercation involving the coach and trainer of beaten Croatian pairing Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic and Aussie stars Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis, revealing tensions run high behind the scenes at grand slams all the time.

Kyrgios this morning exposed the post-match altercation in a tweet claiming a fight in the players’ gym had been threatened in a fiery post-script to the ‘Special Ks’ upset of the No.1 seeds.

Commentator Sam Groth then revealed on Nine’s coverage of the Australian Open that Kokkinakis had sent him a text during the altercation. Groth described the reaction of the Metkic/Pavic camp as “soft”.

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Yet Woodbridge said the locker room beef at top level tennis events was as old as time and encouraged Kyrgios and Kokkinakis to use the win over the No.1 seeds and the surrounding drama as fuel to go ahead in the tournament and claim their first Grand Slam title together.

“There has been altercations, discussions, a bit of biffo in the locker room for years. Don’t think this is anything new,” Woodbridge said. “When you’re in a sporting environment and you’ve come off with huge amounts of adrenaline, things get said and things happen.

“They’re all big boys. Work it out.”

Kyrgios, Kokkinakis whip crowd into frenzy

Woodbridge added that he could understand how the No.1 seeded Croatians would have felt under siege, playing a dangerous floater in the second round in front of a raucous and hostile crowd.

Yet the 22-time Grand Slam doubles champion could see nothing wrong with the on-court behaviour of Kyrgios or Kokkinakis, saying they were entitled to leverage their home court advantage.

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“Look, they beat the top team in the world who would have been extremely hacked off that they were in their section of the draw second round, that’s a bad draw for those guys,” Woodbridge said.

“Given Nick’s popularity and the eyeballs that he brings, there was always going to be that [boisterous crowd, histrionics] and you’ve got to be ready for that.

“What I’ve loved about Nick’s matches so far in this tournament is it’s provided an atmosphere like we used to have in Davis Cup, a parochial advantage, and of course you’re going to have that.

“If you went to Andy Roddick at Arthur Ashe stadium, you don’t think the New York crowd are going for him in a night match? And you don’t think in Paris when Gael Monfils starts putting on a show at Roland Garros the French crowd are not going to be behind him? That’s what it’s all about.

“So yeah, I can understand exactly how the Croatians felt, but that’s what you have to deal with.”

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Today’s revelations about the post-match altercation is bound to hog the headlines, but Woodbridge said Kyrgios and Kokkinakis needed to put that to one side and focus on their huge opportunity to win a major and breathe new life into doubles tennis.

Although better known for their singles play, Woodbridge said they were an accomplished doubles team with a history to prove it, having won the boys Wimbledon title together back in 2013.

“My hope is that they recognise there’s an opportunity to walk away with a Grand Slam title. Yeah, have all the fun you like, but realise that this is actually a pretty cool thing that you can put on your resume and take home.

“Because they’ve beaten the best team in the world and they can beat every other team in the tournament, if they can just continue to enjoy themselves and stay focused.

“We know that singles is the big time but the other parts bring great entertainment. And here at an Australian Open where we’re going to get 35,000, 40,000 people today, we need those matches for people to come and watch and as someone who was involved in keeping the profile up in doubles, I’m stoked that these guys have put the focus on that again.”

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