Thanasi Kokkinakis’ career resurgence reached new heights as the Australian claimed a first-ever ATP Tour singles title with a decisive victory in his hometown of Adelaide.
World number 145 surprised world number 58, Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech, in a fiercely close contest, eventually winning 6-7(6) 7-6(5) 6-3.
After the pair traded tie-break victories in the first two sets, Kokkinakis eventually earned the first break of the match in the opener of the decider.
He never looked back, smashing his opponent again to secure a long-awaited crown before bursting into tears.
“I wouldn’t want to win my first title anywhere else,” he told the crowd.
Watch Tennis Live with beIN SPORTS on Kayo. Live coverage of ATP + WTA Tour tournaments, including every match in the finals. New to Kayo? Start your free trial >
Kokkinakis, 25, burst onto the scene in 2014 and 2015, reaching No. 69 in the world in the past year. But recurring injuries have severely undermined his promising rise, as he only reached one final at ATP Tour level in 2017. More serious injuries since have seen him claim just five victories at Tour level. between 2019 and the end of 2021, seeing its ranking slip. 171st in the world.
His injury inferno includes injuries to his shoulder, pectoral, knee, groin, elbow and abdomen as well as a severe case of glandular fever, while he also battled mental illness .
But in the past two weeks he has reached the semi-finals twice – first at the Adelaide International, before doing even better in the second tournament of Adelaide’s double-header. Remarkably, the injury-prone talent managed to play for five consecutive days, including winning four straight three-set clashes – and fighting back three times after a set down.
Kokkinakis saved two match points against former world number 3 Marin Cilic to book a place in today’s final of Adelaide’s International Two in a nearly three-hour 6-2, 3- win. 6, 7-6 (10).
In front of a roaring, parochial crowd, Kokkinakis outplayed his opponent, landing 18 aces to 15 and never double faulting. He didn’t face a single break point and was unfazed with the game on the line in the second set tie-break.
“You saw me at my lows and now at my highs,” an emotional Kokkinakis told his team after claiming victory in the final.
Kokkinakis has already moved up from 171st in the world to 145th, a ranking that is expected to rise to 103rd when the rankings are updated on Monday. Along with playing consistently and staying healthy, getting back into the top 100 for the first time in nearly six years was Kokkinakis’ top priority for 2022.
Victory in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday would all but ensure that goal is achieved – and bookmark a second round date with Rafael Nadal.
The pair faced off in the second round of the same tournament in Australia’s debut campaign in 2014, with Nadal comfortably outclassing the then-teenage tyro.