Kokkinakis at center of two on-court incidents—and qualifies for Cincy, too

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Thanasi Kokkinakis made his first public comments about a distraction-filled week. (AP)

MASON, Ohio—Thanasi Kokkinakis has been losing sleep and struggling to focus after being thrust into the vortex of fellow Australian Nick Krygios’ viciously insulting on-court comments at last week’s Rogers Cup in Montreal.

“It’s been a circus,” said Kokkinakis. The 19-year-old made his first public statements on Sunday night after beating Marsel Ilhan, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, to qualify for the Western & Southern Open’s main draw.

Kokkinakis was also involved in a heated exchange with American Ryan Harrison in the first round of qualifying. The umpire had to separate the two at the net. An exasperated-sounding Kokkinakis said he hoped the controversy would die down.

“I haven’t gotten much sleep on the nights of the two incidents,” he said. “I didn’t get much sleep last night either. Luckily enough I recovered and I’m playing a tournament at the moment. I’m trying to focus on that. I’m happy I found a way to get a win.”

In comments picked up by a courtside microphone, Kyrgios linked reigning French Open champion Stan Wawrinka with Kokkinakis and his former girlfriend, Donna Vekic of Croatia.

“Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend. Sorry to tell you that mate,” the 20-year-old Kyrgios said midway through the second set.

Kokkinakis had no clue what was going on when his phone lit up.

“I had just lost qualies so I was pretty shattered about that in Montreal,” he said. “I was just on my laptop watching the match and my phone just went crazy. I was like, ‘Oh, Jeez.’”

He didn’t realize the full ramifications until a Fox Sports reporter sent him a tweet. “It was pretty crazy what happened,” he said.

Kokkinakis said he had subsequently “cleared the air” with Vekic and Wawrinka, but did not want to get into details.

He said Kyrgios had apologized for dragging him into the ugly incident.

“I made it pretty clear he can’t be doing that,” the 79th-ranked player said of Kyrgios, who was jeered when he took the court during a loss in his next match against John Isner. “If he’s got a problem he’s got to kind of say it in private. The way he went about it definitely wasn’t the right thing.”

Kokkinakis said he did not appreciate being lumped together the 126th-ranked Harrison in comments made during their tight contest, either.

“Obviously it got pretty fiery out there,” he said. “The main thing I was frustrated about is I thought he brought up something that wasn’t there to be brought up. I was just talking to the umpire about a couple of overrules that I thought happened one too many times on big points. That’s just what I was disappointed about. So bringing me into it I didn’t think was necessary.”

In the last few days, Kokkinakis said he has been getting advice from various camps about how to handle the situation and hasn’t experienced too much blowback in the locker room.

“Most of the guys have been pretty good,” he said. “Pretty much everyone actually…They don’t think I’m in the wrong with anything.”

The ATP fined 37th-ranked Kyrgios a maximum $10,000 for his rant against Swiss star Wawrinka and an additional $2,500 for a comment to a ball person during the same match.

The men’s governing body is also investigating the incident, which could lead to further fines or suspension under the "Player Major Offence" provision.

At the Cincinnati Masters 1000 tournament in Mason, Ohio, players continued to weigh in on the topic.

Roger Federer called it “disappointing” and said that Kyrgios had “crossed a line.” Top-ranked American Isner, a Players Council board member, said the Australian had gone too far but doesn’t believe he should be suspended.

“Certainly what happened on the court should not have happened,” Isner said Sunday. “I know he’s been fined. You just got to maybe hope he learns his lesson from this.”

Despite the swirl of controversy, Kokkinakis has continued to burnish his status as one of the game’s rising talents. With his two victories here, he improved to 15-1 in qualifying matches this year and reached his sixth ATP Tour main draw in seven attempts.

“It hasn’t been ideal,” he said of his preparation. “I’d rather not have to worry about that sort of stuff….I’ve tried to put it aside when I get on court.”

He faces a tough opponent on Monday night in former Top-15 player Fabio Fognini of Italy, who has his own history of on court antics and hefty fines.

“That should be interesting too,” he laughed nervously.

Should he win, he could face Kyrgios in the second round. Kyrgios faces No. 12 seed Richard Gasquet of France.

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