Girlfriend's photo highlights sad tennis reality as Thanasi Kokkinakis seals French Open spot

The Aussie tennis player has guaranteed himself direct entry into the Roland Garros grand slam.

Thanasi Kokkinakis won the seventh title of his professional tennis career this week - not that many fans would have noticed. That's because he did at at the second-tier Challenger level in a bold gamble that saw him earn enough rankings points to gain direct entry into the French Open next month.

The Aussie star beat Zizou Burgs 6-3 1-6 6-0 in the final of the Sarasota Open in Florida to claim his sixth Challenger title to go along with one at ATP level (Adelaide in 2022). But the fact he was playing a Challenger event meant there was very little fanfare for the Aussie star.

Thanasi Kokkinakis with girlfriend Hannah Dal Sasso.
Thanasi Kokkinakis' girlfriend provided one of the few photos of him winning the Sarasota Open. Image: Getty/Hannah Dal Sasso

And a photo sent from his girlfriend to a fan on social media highlighted the sad reality of Kokkinakis' triumph. None of the big photo agencies sent anyone to the event and didn't pay to distribute pics from the tournament to subscribers.

The only photos that exist of Kokkinakis' triumph come from his girlfriend and local fans posting on social media. It highlights a brutal reality that mid-tier and lower-ranked players face on a week-by-week basis as they strive to earn enough rankings points and prize money to survive in their careers.

Kokkinakis earned $17,200 for his troubles, which pales in comparison to the $1.5 million that Stefanos Tsitsipas pocketed for winning the Monte Carlo Masters on the same day. But the $200,000 payday he will get for playing in the first round of the French Open makes it all worthwhile.

Kokkinakis' triumph in Sarasota made him the second Aussie to win the title there after Nick Kyrgios in 2014. “I guess Nick and I will have something new to chat about,” Kokkinakis said.

Thanasi Kokkinakis secures direct entry into French Open

The 28-year-old from South Australia earned enough rankings points at the event to catapult him back into the top 100 of the ATP rankings (94) - which means he has gained automatic entry into the French Open and won't have to go through qualifying. “This is my springboard to the French Open,” he said. “I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel any pressure out there.

“Coming into the week, it’s not the kind of thought process you want to have. I like to play free and play my game. But that made it tough. I just kept fighting. I knew what was at stake. I kept pushing hard and found a way to win. I lost my focus there for a while. But I was able to gather myself. I was putting a lot of pressure on my shoulders. It was a relief after winning.

“I probably broke his spirit a little bit after he played a great second set. Both of us have had long weeks. When you get to the final, both of you are a little bit fatigued. Zizou is a hell of a player. He will crack the top 100. It’s just a matter of time."

Thanasi Kokkinakis, pictured here at Indian Wells in March.
Thanasi Kokkinakis at Indian Wells in March.


Kokkinakis' run to the title included wins over seventh seed Gabriel Diallo in a gruelling three-and-a-half-hour 7-6 (2) 4-6 7-6 (3) victory in the quarters, before after a win over fellow Australian Marc Polmans 6-2 7-6 (5) in the semis. His qualification for the French Open means Australia will have at least eight male players in the main draw, with Alex de Minaur, Jordan Thompson, Alexei Popyrin, Chris O’Connell, Aleksander Vukic, Rinky Hijikata and Max Purcell.