Thanasi Kokkinakis took his anger out on an umpire and then his racquet, during fiery scenes in an epic Australian Open second round defeat to Andy Murray. In one of the most dramatic matches ever seen at Melbourne Park, Kokkinakis let a two-set lead slip before finally succumbing to the British great in a shattering 4-6, 6-7 (7-4), 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 7-5 defeat.
The five-hour and 45-minute epic was the second longest in Australian Open history and the longest in the distinguished career of three-time major winner, Murray. The Brit hit out at the schedule after the match, which didn't finish until after 4am at Melbourne Park.
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However, it was Kokkinakis that was livid during the match after a controversial call went against him in the third set. The Aussie already had a running battle with the chair umpire, but a service violation call tipped him over the edge.
“What is that s***, you cannot call that while I’m waiting for a call out,” Kokkinakis vented at the umpire. “I was there, I waited, he said something, I go again. You’re just saying that because you felt bad about his (Murray had earlier raged over a time violation). That’s 100 per cent it.”
The Aussie continued his tirade, adding: “What’s your problem then? You’re not waiting for s***. I’m waiting for him to stop talking. You’re wrong, you’re wrong again. Six seconds, I’m about to serve, he calls out, I start again. Then you call again. That’s a bad call again.”
Kokkinakis snapped after losing the next point to Murray when his return floated marginally out, prompting the Aussie too smash his racquet in disgust. He was promptly handed a code violation for racquet abuse.
Murray was also left frustrated with the chair umpire after it appeared he wasn't allowed a bathroom break at around 3am in the morning in the fourth set. "You know what, it's so disrespectful that the tournament has us out here till 3, 4am in the morning and we are not allowed to go take a piss. It's a joke," Murray said in a fiery press conference after the win.
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Murray's gripes with the scheduling and the ridiculous finish time of his match were echoed across the tennis world as calls grew louder for changes to the night session. Murray's brother Jamie is among those who've insisted only one match should be played on each of the main courts during the night session. Speaking after his match in the early hours of Friday morning, the 35-year-old Murray was less than impressed.
"It is a joke and you know it as well. It's disrespectful to you, it's disrespectful to the ball children and disrespectful to the players," Murray fumed. "I don't know who it's beneficial for.
"Rather than the discussion being about an epic Murray-Kokkinakis match it ends in a bit of a farce. If I had a ball kid who is coming home at 5am I'm snapping at that; it's not beneficial for them, the umpires, the officials, I don't think it's amazing for the fans or good for players."
With his early career ravaged by injury, Kokkinakis had never previously gone past the Open second round. He's only once before reached the third round at a grand slam at the 2015 French Open. While Kokkinakis was visibly shattered as he left court, Murray was jubilant having defied the odds in two five-set matches to start his Australian Open charge.
"It's unbelievable that I managed to turn that around," said the 35-year-old, with the match the longest of his stellar career. "Thanasi was serving unbelievably well, hitting his forehand huge and I don't know how I managed to get through it.
"I did start playing better as the match went on and I have a big heart. It's amazing to win the match but now I want to go to bed." Everyone, including me, I think we should all get off to bed now."
Kokkinakis wasn't able to front the media after the match after he was treated for an unknown injury. While no doubt gutted about the nature of his loss, the Aussie certainly would have won plenty more admirers after one of the most gruelling Australian Open encounters in history.
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