Kokkinakis aiming higher than Aussie Open

Ben McKay
Thanasi Kokkinakis says concentration and focus are key to him getting back to his best tennis form

After sealing an Australian Open qualifying showdown, Thanasi Kokkinakis says he's eager to usurp the high-flying pack of Aussies by getting back to his best.

The 22-year-old was a second-round qualifying winner over Sebastian Ofner on Thursday, defeating the Austrian 6-4 7-6 (7-4) in one hour and 38 minutes.

With niggling injuries pushing his world ranking outside the top 100, Kokkinakis has been made to earn his meal ticket by qualifying for the year's first major.

The South Australian was seemingly bound for superstardom four years ago when he burst onto the scene, showing his promise again last year by defeating Roger Federer in Miami.

Shoulder and groin issues, among other complaints, have dropped him down the pecking order to sit as the eighth-ranked Australian man.

He's fallen behind teenager and new Australian No.1 Alex de Minaur, recovering talents Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic, as well as John Millman and Matthew Ebden, who are riding career-best form.

Kokkinakis is setting his sights even higher than simply joining the pack of Aussie hopefuls.

"I don't want to join them. I want to do it my own way and be higher than them," he said.

Kokkinakis arrived in Melbourne with the best six months of tennis behind him since his breakout 2015 season.

On Thursday, Kokkinakis took another step towards bettering his career-best ranking of 69 by defeating Ofner.

The next step is beating experienced Canadian Peter Polansky to reach the main draw.

Irrespective of whether he returns to his home slam, Kokkinakis says his goals for 2019 are clear.

"I knew I had to raise my bottom level so, when I'm not playing well, I can grind wins. When I had my career (best) year which felt like ages ago, that's what I was doing well," he said.

"You've got to be on court to be able to do that but I'm starting to do that.

"For me, it's about concentration and focus.

"To play in front of people again, in qualies (qualifiers) and have the spotlight on you, that's sort of match fitness in itself."