Thanasi Kokkinakis has completed his suspended match against Fabio Fognini at the Australian Open in which the Italian veteran was accused of 'tanking'. Questions were raised about Fognini's lack of effort as the first-round match was suspended with Kokkinakis just five points away from victory on Tuesday night due to rain.
After play was suspended for about three hours on Tuesday afternoon due to extreme heat, the heavens opened up at 8pm and caused a number of further delays. Kokkinakis was leading 6-1 6-2 4-2 with Fognini serving at 15-40 when the match was called off for the night.
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The match resumed on Wednesday night, with Kokkinakis quickly securing the five points he needed to advance to the second round. Boos rained down from spectators as the players shook hands at the net, with fans furious over Fognini's display.
"I don't know how to explain that," commentator Adam Peacock said on Channel 9 after Fognini casually hit a ball out during the third set on Tuesday night. "Spoke for itself...A real lack of energy from Fabio at the moment."
Roger Rasheed said: "(Kokkinakis') opponent hasn't yet tested him...and put him under any duress. Shots like that have come off the Italian's racquet again and again. "
Mark McGowan of The Age tweeted: "Fognini's skating very close to the tanking line. And I'm being generous."
Tennis commentator Craig Gabriel added: "Is Fabio Fognini on the court playing Thanasi Kokkinakis? There is someone there. Looks like Fognini but like a shadow as Kokkinakis leads 6-1, 6-2."
Is Fabio Fognini on the court playing Thanasi Kokkinakis? There is someone there, looks like Fognini but like a shadow as Kokkinakis leads 61 62
— Craig Gabriel (@crosscourt1) January 17, 2023
Fans described Fognini's display as 'disgraceful' and 'pathetic'.
— Phillip 🇲🇰 (@ItsPHL) January 17, 2023
Fognini looks like he's actually tanking this match. #AusOpen
— Andy (@andybombers2013) January 17, 2023
— Matty (@MatanSlonim1997) January 17, 2023
It’s not the first time that Fognini has faced allegations of tanking. He should’ve been rubbed out of tennis years ago. He’s a disgraceful advertisement for men’s tennis.
— Hector Samuels🇦🇺🇮🇹🇺🇸 (@HS19661966) January 17, 2023
Totally agree something is not right.
— DonnaG (🦁🦁❤️💙💛) (@DonnaAslan) January 17, 2023
Fognini is ranked more than 100 places higher than Kokkinakis at World No.57. But the Italian hit 23 unforced errors in a lacklustre effort on Tuesday night.
The 35-year-old appeared to be going through the motions and looked no match for a hungry Kokkinakis, who has enjoyed a stunning career resurgence in recent years after a string of injuries. He made the semi-finals at the Adelaide International last week after winning the title there last year.
Kokkinakis was just five points away from a stunning victory when rain stopped play for the sixth and final time. It was among 22 matches suspended or rescheduled on Tuesday, sparking a massive fixture headache for organisers.
Speaking on Wednesday morning, Channel 9 commentators Todd Woodbridge and Jelena Dokic said the delay might have been the best thing for Fognini. " If he decides to unleash, he can do some damage because he has nothing to lose," Woodbridge said.
Dokic added: " Especially when you feel like you should have been done and out of the tournament, like you said, booking a ticket home. Thanasi will want to finish that match off, shut it down, any sense of that comeback or anything at all, just get back into the locker room."
However their fears proved unfounded, with Kokkinakis easily dispatching the Italian when the match was finally recommenced. The Aussie will face Andy Murray in the second round after the three-time major winner's stunning upset over Matteo Berrettini on Tuesday.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 18, 2023
Wild weather sparks scheduling chaos at Australian Open
Organisers have been forced to try and cram 22 rescheduled or restarted matches into the fixture, as the other side of the draw began the second round on Wednesday. Aussies Max Purcell and Aleksandar Vukic were also caught in the chaos and had their matches suspended.
Both were recommenced on Wednesday night, with Purcell fending off three match points before finally succumbing 6-4 3-6 4-6 8-6 (13-11) against Emil Ruusuvuori. Vukic went down to Brandon Holt 4-6 6-1 3-6 6-3 6-3.
The rain came on a number of occasions after the extreme heat policy was employed on Tuesday afternoon. The mercury hit a peak of 37 degrees, with play on all outside courts suspended until 5pm. Jordan Thompson's match was among the many to be suspended before he lost 3-6 6-3 4-6 5-7 to JJ Wolf.
But it was good news for Australia's top-ranked player Alex de Minaur. The only seeded Aussie player in the draw following Nick Kyrgios' withdrawal, de Minaur powered into the second round with a 6-2 6-2 6-3 win over Taiwanese qualifier Hsu Yu Hsiou.
Aussie youngster Alexei Popyrin also scored a brilliant victory in a match that finished after 2am. The 23-year-old beat another Taiwanese player, Chun-Hsin Tseng 4-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-4) 6-1.
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