Local hope Thanasi Kokkinakis found himself at the centre of a bizarre mid-match moment in his second round clash at the Australian Open on Thursday evening.
Buoyed by his stunning opening round win at Melbourne Park, the injury-plagued Aussie was full of confidence against Greek fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.
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Kokkinakis had fans on their feet in a thrilling five-set marathon that ultimately ended in disappointment for the popular Aussie.
Tsitsipas did it the hard way but the fifth seed’s class ultimately shone through in the pulsating 6-7 (5/7) 6-4 6-1 6-7 (5/7) 6-4 triumph.
Kokkinakis flew out of the blocks and took the first set against the Greek superstar in a thrilling tiebreaker.
Tsitsipas found his groove the longer the match wore on, however, and managed to nudge in front after claiming the next two sets.
Things threatened to unravel for the Aussie when he found himself down 1-3 and 0-40 in the third, when a bizarre moment seemed to cruel his hopes of a comeback.
Kokkinakis had his opponent on the ropes and looked destined to win a crucial rally when a ball slipped out of his pocket, causing the umpire to interject.
The shot from Tsitsipas was already in the air and travelling long when the rogue ball fell out of the Aussie's pocket, prompting the umpire to call for a replay of the point.
“That is infuriating,” Todd Woodbridge said in commentary as Kokkinakis cursed his misfortune.
The bizarre incident left Kokkinakis furious with the chair umpire - the Aussie insisting the ball from Tsitsipas was already travelling out and the point should have been his.
Bizarre incident baffles viewers
“It had no interference with the play,” he could be heard arguing as the umpire explained that he was following the letter of the law.
Some viewers couldn't help but take a cheeky dig at the 24-year-old's shorts, following his admission earlier in the week that his outfit had come from K-Mart.
100% he was robbed ump lost the plot
— luke condick (@luke_pies) February 11, 2021
umpire was right to do that, it's not out of play until it hits the ground
— Lee S (@yelnats_eel) February 11, 2021
— Paul Johnson (@pjohnson_sports) February 11, 2021
Whey even play a point with a ball in your pocket? Kokkinakis can't complain there #AusOpen
— Matt (@Mattys123) February 11, 2021
But their shorts don’t have deep pockets 🤣🤣🤣🤣 https://t.co/y2XFLJw0U5
— Thanasi Kokkinakis Fans (@FanofKokk) February 11, 2021
— Munjit Singh 🌱 (@iam_msu) February 11, 2021
Rather than derail the Aussie, the incident appeared to give him a renewed sense of purpose as the 24-year-old turned the contest on its head in the fourth set.
Tsitsipas did his best to finish off Kokkinakis and book his place in the third round but the Aussie just wouldn't got away.
The crowd inside Rod Laver Arena erupted when the Aussie forced a fourth set tiebreaker and the noise levels went through the roof when the Kokkinakis managed to win take it out and send the match into a decisive fifth set.
Tsitsipas let out an almighty roar after grabbing the vital break in the fifth game of the decider.
The Greek star showed few signs of giving Kokkinakis an opening on his own serve as he edged closer to an epic win.
With Kokkinakis serving to stay in the contest at 5-3 down in the decider, the clock ticked past the four hour and twenty minute mark - making it the longest match sop far at this year's Australian Open.
The Aussie dug deep and refused to go down without a fight, forcing the fifth seed to serve for the match.
Despite his extraordinary display, there was to be no happy ending for the Aussie though as Tsitsipas claimed the five-set epic to progress to the third round.
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