'What a battle': Tennis world erupts over Aussie's 'epic' display

Pictured here, the highs and lows for Thanasi Kokkinakis on display against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Thanasi Kokkinakis and Stefanos Tsitsipas put on one hell of a show on Rod Laver Arena. Pic: Getty

Aussie star Thanasi Kokkinakis has left tennis fans in awe after an incredible performance in his second round Australian Open clash against No.5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The injury-plagued Australian may not have won the contest, but he went down swinging in what was the longest match so far at the 2021 grand slam tournament.

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Long overdue a change of luck on the injury front, Kokkinakis looked right at home back on centre stage as he traded blows with the 2019 Open semi-finalist before bowing out 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-1 6-7 (5-7) 6-4.

The unsponsored Kokkinakis - who’s famously been rocking $6 K-Mart gear at this year’s grand slam - was a massive underdog going into the contest.

It was just the Aussie’s second match since 2019 but incredibly, he showed no signs of rust or fatigue against one of the brightest young stars in the sport.

Greek superstar Tsitsipas did not drop a service game in a marathon encounter which lasted four hours and 32 minutes in front of an engrossed crowd at Rod Laver Arena.

Despite his opponent's impregnable serve and Kokkinakis' unfortunate with injuries, the popular 24-year-old was still able to make the match go the distance by stepping up in the two tiebreaks.

He also saved a match point in the 10th game of the fourth set.

Kokkinakis has battled a plethora of serious injuries in recent years, which has seen his world ranking plummet to No.267.

But in front of a raucous home crowd inside Rod Laver Arena on Thursday evening, the plucky Aussie gave the tennis world a taste of what they'd been missing.

The local hope refused to take a backward step and came back at Tsitsipas time and time again, when it looked as if his opponent was edging towards victory.

Kokkinakis could easily have unravelled when the umpire made him replay a point he would have won in the third set, when a tennis ball slipped out of his pocket during a rally.

Tsitsipas had already hit his return - which was sailing long - when the ball spilled out of the Aussie's pocket, leaving Kokkinakis fuming.

The Aussie dropped that set but managed to put his frustrations to one side as he claimed the next set to force a decider, before falling agonisingly short.

Local hope leaves fans in a frenzy

Kokkinakis was given a standing ovation as he left the court, with his opponent joining fans in heaping praise on the 24-year-old.

Kokkinakis missed the 2020 Open due to glandular fever and then chose not to travel overseas to play last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But when fit, the South Australian remains a formidable foe, as he proved when beating then-world No.1 Roger Federer three years ago at the Miami Open.

That talent was on show time and again on Thursday night in a match watched by his close friend and doubles partner Nick Kyrgios.

Seen here, Thanasi Kokkinakis cheers wildly in his second round Australian Open clash.
Thanasi Kokkinakis had fans on the edge of their seats in a superb match against Stefanos Tsitsipas. Pic: Getty

The pair were first dubbed the Special Ks back in 2013 when they squared off in the Australian Open junior final and appeared to have the tennis world at their feet.

Before Thursday evening, the previous time Kokkinakis had played on Rod Laver Arena at the Australian Open was in 2014 when he lost in straight sets to Rafael Nadal at the age of 17.

Tsitsipas will take on Mikael Ymer in the third round on Saturday after the Swede ousted Spanish teen sensation Carlos Alcaraz 2-6 6-4 6-4 7-6 (7-5).

with AAP

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