Kokkinakis has to overcome tentative grass-court vibes

Thanasi Kokkinakis is not afraid to admit he's a bit like Bambi on ice when it comes to grass court tennis.

"Are you tentative when you play on grass?" he was asked the other day. "Yep," came the immediate, unhesitating response, without a flicker of a smile.

The big Australian's feeling of insecurity on the surface is something that's bugged him ever since he slipped on a wet court two years ago at a Challenger tournament in Surbiton and sprained the MCL in his knee.

And all the old demons came to haunt Kokkinakis at Queen's Club again a fortnight ago when he suffered another tumble and a similar MCL problem in his left knee that kept him out of action for a week to interrupt his preparations for Wimbledon.

But now he's at SW19, Kokkinakis, who had an eventful run to the third round on the clay at Roland Garros, is having to bury any negative thoughts as he prepares for an opening-round clash with one-time Canadian fenom Felix Auger-Aliassime, the 17th seed, on Tuesday.

"I have been rehabbing to try and get as close as I can to 100 per cent. I'm getting close, having played an exhibition match last week, and hopefully I'm in good shape come Tuesday," said Adelaide's world No.93.

"The grass can be so dangerous. I got injured two years ago and I missed a month playing, so I've just got to be careful. At Wimbledon, more than anything, it's just trying to get to the start line healthy.

"Of course, I would have loved to have few matches and a bit more prep, but I'll just to see what I can do.

"I think getting the confidence for me in moving is probably the biggest thing. That's the toughest part about a grass court. It's just trying to gain confidence in practice, trying to simulate as close to match conditions as I can.

"Playing an exhibition match is cool, but you don't want to injure yourself there and it's not the same intensity. So trying to get my head in the mindset of approaching it like I would at Wimbledon has been the most important thing."

He's never played Auger-Aliassime, who at 23 may never have quite managed to hit the heights expected of him as a teenage wonder boy but who is still world-class and, on his day, can look like a world beater.

"It's a tough match. I haven't hit with him much - once at the US Open last year - but he's obviously a very tough opponent, who knows his way around a grass court as well," said Kokkinakis.

"I think we've got similar game styles. He always brings good intensity, he's very physical so I've got to match that, match his level. Definitely think I've got a chance."


Men's singles

9-Alex de Minaur v James Duckworth

Chris O'Connell v 13-Taylor Fritz (USA)

Thanasi Kokkinakis v 17-Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN)

Alexei Popyrin v Thiago Monteiro (BRA)

Adam Walton v Federico Coria (ARG)

Rinky Hijikata v Flavio Cobolli (ITA)

Women's singles

Ajla Tomljanovic v 13-Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)

Olivia Gadecki v Robin Montgomery (USA)