Thanasi Kokkinakis caught up in Australian Open storm after swipe from female player

The host broadcaster of the Australian Open has come under fire.

Pictured right is Aussie tennis star Thanasi Kokkinakis and 2023 Australian Open runner-up Elena Rybakina on left.
Thanasi Kokkinakis' first round clash was one of two men's matches shown on Nine's free-to-air coverage instead of 2023 Australian Open runner-up Elena Rybakina's. Pic: Getty

Australian Open host broadcaster Channel Nine has come under fire from Russian tennis star Daria Kasatkina over its coverage of the grand slam on Tuesday night. Nine quite rightfully opted to show Aussie fan favourite Thanasi Kokkinakis' thrilling five-set victory on its main channel, with the 27-year-old downing Austrian Sebastian Ofner 7-6 (7-1) 2-6 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 7-6 (10-8) in a first-round epic.

However, the network's decision to snub last year's Australian Open runner-up Elena Rybakina left Kasatkina less than impressed with the host broadcaster. Rybakina was playing in the first night match on Rod Laver Arena and booked her spot in the second round with a 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 win over former World No.1 Karolina Pliskova.

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Despite the high quality nature of the contest on Centre Court at Melbourne Park, the Nine Network failed to show Rybakina's match as part of their free-to-air schedule. Instead, the 2022 Wimbledon champion's match was only available on the host broadcaster's digital service, 9Now, with the other men's match between sixth seed Alexander Zverev and Dominik Koepfer on Nine's alternate free-to-air channel 9Gem.

“No women’s tennis shown on TV. They are playing on Rod Laver, prime time and for what... don’t wanna say who they (are) actually showing now,” Kasatkina posted on X, formerly Twitter. The Russian was clearly suggesting there was a sexist agenda at play in Nine's coverage and many outraged fans took to social media to agree.

It's doubtful Kasatkina's fury was directed at the decision to show Kokkinakis' match on its main channel, with host broadcasters frequently keen to showcase home-grown talent. The Russian's brutal swipe was more likely in response to Nine's decision to show Zverev's match over Rybakina's.

Alexander Zverev cops backlash over assault allegations

The German star - who came from behind to beat Koepfer 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-3) 6-3 - has been at the centre of recent backlash due to an upcoming court case in Germany. Zverev is set to stand trial in May, during the French Open, after he was ordered to pay fines of €450,000 ($A750,000) over an alleged assault of a former partner.

Netflix's decision to dedicate an episode of its Break Point series on Zverev has come under fire across the tennis world, due to the serious nature of the accusations levelled against him and the fact the series failed to mention the controversy. The German was quizzed by one reporter on the drama after his opening win at Melbourne Park and accused the media of being more interested in "clicks" than the truth.

Seen here, Alexander Zverev at the Australian Open.
Alexander Zverev continues to face questions about his assault allegations and upcoming court case. Pic: Getty

In a tetchy post-match press conference after his victory against Koepfer, the German bristled at questions around his upcoming trial and whether his role on the ATP player council was appropriate. "Why would it not be?," the 26-year-old shot back at one reporter's question about his place on the player's committee. "Nobody has said anything to me. I don't have a reason not to believe that."

In an awkward exchange, the only questions Zverev got in English during his press conference were about his trial, which he will reportedly not have to appear in court for. Zverev pushed back when the journalist put it to him that "some people" insist he shouldn't be playing tennis at all.

"Like who? Journalists are saying that, some, who are actually interested more in this story to write about and more about the clicks than the actual truth," Zverev fired back. Women's world No.1 Iga Swiatek appeared to take a shot at Zverev and the ATP after being quizzed on his position on the players' council in light of the allegations.

Swiatek admitted she was in a tricky spot and said "there's no good answer to that". The World No.1 added: "I think it's up to ATP what they decide. For sure it's not good when a player who's facing charges like that is kind of being promoted."

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