'What a moment': Tennis world erupts over Thanasi Kokkinakis history
Australia's Thanasi Kokkinakis is the toast of the tennis world after victory in the Adelaide International final saw the local hope claim the first ATP title of his career.
The incredible tennis renaissance of Kokkinakis was made even more special by the fact the South Australian's historic moment came in his home city.
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Kokkinakis lit up the Memorial Drive Tennis Centre as he shrugged off a first-set deficit to beat big-serving Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech 6-7 (8-6) 7-6 (7-5) 6-3.
The 25-year-old is well-versed in having to overcome obstacles.
Earmarked as a "Special K" and fulcrum of Australian tennis alongside countryman Nick Kyrgios after featuring in two junior grand slam finals, Kokkinakis instead endured a horror injury run that left him contemplating retirement.
Shoulder, pectoral, groin, knee and elbow injuries and a serious bout of glandular fever had stripped him of long periods of tennis over five years.
Only a fortnight ago he was ranked 171 in the world.
But a golden run through Adelaide - that included a semi-final in the first tournament last week - will leave him knocking on the door of the top 100.
Swiss 20-time grand slam champion Roger Federer was among those to congratulate Kokkinakis on his incredible achievement.
WOW.... no words🏆
Love you Adelaide ❤️
A day I’ll never forget pic.twitter.com/Gor0zFElm2
— Thanasi Kokkinakis (@TKokkinakis) January 15, 2022
Federer personally congratulated Kokkinakis on his Adelaide title 🥺 pic.twitter.com/kiwf5lf3yX
— Bastien Fachan (@BastienFachan) January 15, 2022
Seriously behind the scenes, the absolute mountain of work this dude has put in has been incredible to watch. And more importantly is a ripping bloke. You bloody deserve this brother! #kokkinakis @TKokkinakis pic.twitter.com/beM0IUgSxe
— Dylan Alcott (@DylanAlcott) January 15, 2022
Thanasi Kokkinakis in tears after claiming the Adelaide title. A classic Aussie summer moment. pic.twitter.com/d1fcmzTHr5
— Chris Oddo (@TheFanChild) January 15, 2022
The focus on what’s happening in court has overshadowed what’s happened on court, which has included some very nice early season stories…Thanasi Kokkinakis winning ATP Adelaide probably being the best of them all. pic.twitter.com/qCiRCiGJ5M
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 15, 2022
What a moment for Thanasi Kokkinakis 🙌
The Australian wins his first career title on home soil, defeating Arthur Rinderknech in Adelaide!
🎥: @TennisTV | @TKokkinakis pic.twitter.com/io61Tc6By9
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) January 15, 2022
Thanasi Kokkinakis, the feel good story of 2022. You bloody deserve this. We are so proud of you. 🇦🇺😍👏
— Brooke Matković (@brooke_matkovic) January 15, 2022
It is week #2 and yet there will not be many more heartwarming stories in the 2022 tennis season than Thanasi Kokkinakis, after all of the injuries and issues, winning his first title at home in Adelaide. Just very nice scenes.
— Tumaini Carayol (@tumcarayol) January 15, 2022
The likely No.103 marker will be his highest ranking in almost six years and opens to door to direct entry for grand slams.
In a sign of just how far he has come, Kokkinakis's eight matches won over the past fortnight bettered his return across all ATP matches in the past three years.
A teary-eyed Kokkinakis later said it was probably the most emotional he'd felt in his life when Rinderknech's final ball sailed long.
"Not just (happy) for myself and the work I put in but everyone that stuck by me," he said.
"They see me at my lowest points. To ride this high, it's just validation, just happiness for everyone involved. It's as much their title as it is mine."
Thanasi Kokkinakis gears up for Aus Open in style
It didn't come easily on Saturday night as Rinderknech bombed down aces seemingly at will.
The Frenchman was imperious on serve in the first set, not facing a break point.
Kokkinakis largely also delivered on serve and pushed Rinderknech to a tiebreak.
Unfortunately, the Australian blinked first, netting a straightforward forehand after a second serve when 6-7 down in the breaker.
Driven by a raucous crowd, he returned the favour in the next tiebreak to take the match to a decider.
From there it was all Kokkinakis, crunching forehand winner upon winner and breaking Rinderknech twice to seal the match.
Kokkinakis said he'd already reflected on his journey and was at peace with dropping off the tennis radar and everything that entails.
"When you're doing well, everyone wants to pat you on the back, message you. When you're on the other side, a lot of people don't really care," he said.
"But it took me by surprise the first couple of years. The last three years I kind of stopped caring about what other people thought..."
Kokkinakis will head to the Australian Open full of confidence and will play qualifier Yannick Hanfmann in the first round before a likely second-round encounter with Rafael Nadal.
Rinderknech, who will jump to a career-high 48th in the rankings, is set for a serving slugfest in his first-round clash at Melbourne Park, having drawn Australian Alexei Popyrin.
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