Pub rock tennis: how Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis are bringing the public back to doubles

It’s a little after 3:30pm on a lazy summer day and Rafael Nadal, the one of so many grand slam wins that it has long since become very difficult to keep track of them all, and Denis Shapovalov, who will likely win a few of his own in the future , are central.

It’s high quality tennis, worthy of the two stars, and of course they were at the Rod Laver Arena and of course Channel Nine had them on the main station, as befits players of this size.

But the program was interrupted for a special bulletin. Don’t adjust your set, Nine sent out the latest from the Special Ks, the doubles campaign of Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis that took the Australian Open by storm.

The 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Tim Pütz and Michael Venus that was 2 hours and 15 minutes of raw emotion, noise, charisma and drama booked the Australian duo’s ticket to the semi-finals and continued a ride that captivated the Australian sports crowd with doubles for the first time in years.

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Kyrgios and Kokkinakis to semifinal men’s doubles

The last time Australia was so captivated by doubles was in the Woodies’ heyday in the 1990s. But this is different from when Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge were in charge – they won the nation by piling major on major and retired as the most prolific doubles team of the open era.

This is different. Victory was far from certain until late into the night, with the tighter doubles fundamentals of Pütz and Venus almost seeing them navigate the hurricane before the Special Ks shot forward in the final frame. They still face a steep climb to claim the title, with third seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos awaiting the semi-finals.

Two Australian male tennis players chest each other as they celebrate the win.
The Special K show is not for everyone, but many people love it. (MONKEY: Dave Hunt)

And the Special Ks are a local act where the Woodies were the kings of the road. Nine of their 11 slam victories were abroad, including their five consecutive Wimbledon titles from 1993 to 1997.

It’s not that the Special Ks won’t travel, it’s that their act won’t be playing anywhere else. Kyrgios and Kokkinakis can’t arm a crowd in Roland Garros or Flushing Meadows like they can in Melbourne Park, where the rules don’t matter as much as the atmosphere and the only way to live is hit big or die trying.

The Special K’s can sometimes go too far. So much of what they’ve brought out this summer has been driven by emotion and the intensity of the crowd, so it’s only natural for things to bubble over the top every now and then.


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