Thanasi Kokkinakis can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Following six long years of injuries and misfortunes, the Aussie picked up a relieving victory at the Australian Open, defeating Soon Woo Kwon 6-4 6-1 6-1.
Assertive performance in Round 1
After squandering a sizable lead last week against his countryman Alex Bolt at the Murray River Open, Kokkinakis admitted he had to step up his game ahead of the first Major of the season. And the 24-year-old did his homework in convincing fashion, posting arguably his most dominant win of his career on the ATP Tour. There is only one possible outcome whenever a player is both ruthless on serve (30% ace rate) and near flawless on return (6/7 break points converted).
Kokkinakis secured the win, celebrated with the fans and then sat on his chair, visibly moved. Nobody can blame him. Once a top prospect, firmly established in the Top 100 at age 19, the Adelaide native has had his journey marred by all sorts of calamities; from a pectoral muscle tear to a bout of glandular fever. His limited availability prompted his longtime clothing sponsor to cut him loose. At press conference, Kokkinakis admitted purchasing a few plain t-shirts at a local store. The former world No. 69 isn’t concerned about aesthetics, he just wants another crack at the tour because, when healthy, he’s always been competitive.
Battle of the Greeks against Tsitsipas
Up next awaits Stefanos Tsitsipas, one of the draw’s behemoths. The Greek star obliterated a punchless Gilles Simon 6-1 6-2 6-1, dominating every facet of the game. But it must be noted Simon is no longer the baseline pest he used to be.
The fifth seed thrives when he has plenty of time to load his strokes, especially on return, as he often refuses to block them. For instance, he struggled mightily last year against Milos Raonic, failing to win a set both in Melbourne and New York (Cincinnati). Moreover, the court speed has reportedly been amped up. While Kokkinakis’ serve is not on the Canadian’s level, Tsitsipas would be wise not to underestimate the wild card who, in 2018, was capable of defeating then-No. 1 Roger Federer at the Miami Masters.
Mark Philippoussis, unofficial coach
Kokkinakis, who was mentored by fellow Greek-Australian Mark Philippoussis last year, is still far removed from where he aspires to be, which is not surprising considering he didn’t compete at all in 2020. His win over Kwon has boosted his live ranking to a modest No. 228. Stringing together a few wins at the Slam level is the shortest route to the Top 100. However, Kokkinakis enters this duel versus Tsitsipas with no pressure on his shoulders. If he starts swinging freely, this match has a chance to be quite entertaining. Tennis Abstract’s forecast gives Tsitsipas a 94.7% chance to advance to the Round of 32, which is quite disproportionate in my opinion.
This Battle of the Greeks will be the third match of the day session on the magnanimous Rod Laver Arena. It would be the ideal scenario for Kokkinakis to propel his career back into orbit.
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