'I stopped breathing': Aussie star details frightening health scare

Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis, pictured here during a Davis Cup match in 2017.
Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis at the Davis Cup in 2017. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

Thanasi Kokkinakis says he is just trying to stay in shape after coming through a bout of glandular fever that saw him shed 10kg and left him unable to breathe while sleeping.

The South Australian, who underlined his potential when he defeated Roger Federer in Miami in 2018, was forced to miss the year’s first grand slam in Melbourne due to the illness.

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“I was told I had stopped breathing when I was sleeping, my throat was so inflamed,” Kokkinakis, who reached a career-high ranking of 69 in 2015, said.

“I lost 10 kilos because I couldn't eat, now I'm trying to stay in shape, trying to stay sane. I'm not looking too far ahead, trying to maintain shape and not push it too much.

“When we get the all-clear, I'll ramp it up.”

Latest hurdle in Kokkinakis’ stop-start career

Injuries to his elbows and knees, as well as muscle problems, have interrupted the 24-year-old's career and he has been forced to battle his way back through the secondary tours.

The infection once again put him on the back foot but he hopes he can have a clear run once tennis resumes after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I tried to get back on court late December before I knew anything was wrong, and I was running out of gas quickly but I thought it might be the bushfire thing with all the smoke,” said Kokkinakis, who is currently World No.237.

“I was going through four or five shirts a night with a fever, my bed was drenched, I went to Melbourne and I was hitting and I was running out of gas.

“My throat was killing me and it was lingering. It felt like razor blades down my throat so I went to hospital in Melbourne.

“I got back to Adelaide and it got really bad, I couldn't eat and I struggled to drink water. I ended up in hospital again.

“But I'm better now, I'm feeling relatively healthy, but it's been frustrating.”

Thanasi Kokkinakis, pictured here in action at the 2019 Australian Open.
Thanasi Kokkinakis has endured an injury-plagued career. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Tennis legend to help lower-ranked players

Meanwhile, struggling professional tennis players affected by the game's shutdown could be the beneficiary of an illustrious plan being hatched by the 'Big Three'.

Novak Djokovic has been in touch with fellow ATP Player Council members Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal to discuss ways to assist lower-ranked players facing financial struggles amid the coronavirus pandemic.

And that may involve prizemoney from the ATP Finals and the Australian Open going towards a special relief fund.

Answering a fan's question during his Instagram live chat with Stan Wawrinka, Player Council chief Djokovic said steps would be taken to ensure that only those players who are most deserving will benefit from any relief plans.

“I spoke to Roger and Rafa a few days ago and we had a conversation about the near future of tennis. How we can contribute to help lower ranked guys who are obviously struggling the most,” the World No.1 said.

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, pictured here after their match at the 2020 Australian Open.
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in action at the 2020 Australian Open. (Photo by DAVID GRAY/AFP via Getty Images)

"A majority of players ranked between 250 to 700 or 1000 don't have federation support or sponsors and are independent and left alone.”

Djokovic, a 17-times Grand Slam champion, said other short-term solutions could include diverting bonus money meant for top players from season-ending events like the ATP Finals into the relief fund.

“If we don't have any events (in 2020), maybe next year's Australian Open prize money can be contributed to the fund,” the Serb added.

“I'm glad the tennis eco-system is coming together. Everyone realises the base of tennis. These guys ranked 250 onwards are the ones making the future of tennis.

“We have to show them they're not forgotten. We also have to send a message to young players that they can live out of tennis when there's a financial crisis.”

with AAP