“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” — Proverbs 3:5-6
A couple of years ago, Thanasi Kokkinakis wasn’t sure he’d ever set foot on a tennis court again. Severely depressed and injured, Kokkinakis was faced with the reality that all he’d worked so hard for might just be flushed down the drain. All his dreams were crashing in on him, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to fight for them again. Recovering from shoulder surgery and struggling to recuperate from mononucleosis, he asked himself if any attempt at a comeback in the sport was worth the time and effort.
Kokkinakis decided to give it another go, knowing at 24 years of age that he didn’t have endless chances to keep trying to come back. He began playing challenger matches and earned a wild card into the 2021 Australian Open, where he surprised himself and won his first-round match. Understandably emotional afterwards, he tweeted out, “Only those close know the journey… Grateful I get another chance at this thing.” He went on to play an electrifying second-round five-setter, sadly losing to then World No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas, but excited to rebuild his career and see how far he can go if able to stay healthy.
Kokkinakis isn’t afraid to talk openly about his story and how difficult it’s been at times. He’s spoken candidly about his darker moments and the perspective that gives him returning to the sport of tennis. Knowing where he’s been gives him a greater appreciation for the journey and what it’s taken to come back. The tears shed immediately following his first-round win in Australia, after nearly 18 months away from competitive play, said it all.
When it comes to your own life, are you fully appreciating the journey? Perhaps your story isn’t as dramatic as Kokkinakis’, but you’ve undoubtedly had your own share of challenges, failures, disappointments and hardship. You’ve had your moments when you felt like giving up and quitting on everything you worked hard for. You’ve had your seasons of doubting whether or not your dreams were still worth chasing.
Life has a way of taking us on twists and turns we don’t expect, and everyone faces some level of adversity along the way. We have a choice as to whether or not we’ll embrace the struggle and appreciate the journey, or just throw in the towel and decide not to fight anymore.
Kokkinakis is proof that tough times and dark days can happen to all of us — nobody is immune to them. But his story also exemplifies that there is always hope on the other side if you’re just willing to stick it out and keep going, putting one foot in front of the other each day. Whatever your journey holds, take it in stride and don’t give up. Appreciate it in all its craziness because nobody out there is living a story exactly like yours.
— Katherine Singer
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