Thanasi Kokkinakis handed huge reprieve after Miami Open 'shocker'

The Australian tennis player suffered a brutal setback, before getting a lucky loser entry into the ATP 1000 event.

Thanasi Kokkinakis, pictured here throwing his racquet away after losing to Benoit Paire in qualifying for the Miami Open.
Thanasi Kokkinakis threw his racquet away after losing to Benoit Paire in qualifying for the Miami Open. Image: Twitter/Getty

Thanasi Kokkinakis has been handed a lucky loser entry into the Miami Open after failing to qualify for the ATP 1000 event. The Aussie star suffered a brutal loss to enigmatic Frenchman Benoit Paire on Tuesday and failed to directly qualify as a result.

However Kokkinakis was handed a lucky loser spot and will play the tournament after all following a late withdrawal. Kokkinakis re-entered the world's top 100 last month after winning an ATP Challenger event in Bahrain.

The World No.94 reached the Round of 64 at Indian Wells, where he fell to eventual winner Carlos Alcaraz. He then played another Challenger event in Phoenix, before attempting to qualify for the Miami Open.

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But in brutal circumstances, Kokkinakis fell at the last hurdle on Tuesday after losing to the unpredictable Paire 6-4 4-6 7-5. Kokkinakis was broken in the final game of the match, which appeared to cost him a spot in the Miami main draw and potentially his place in the top 100 until his last-minute reprieve.

Kokkinakis has won 15 singles matches this year - including at Challenger events - but the latest loss would have been a hammer blow for the Aussie star as he attempts to continue his climb up the singles rankings. He looked to be in fine form at the Australian Open after he pushed Andy Murray to five sets in the second round.

Kokkinakis appeared disgusted at his loss on Tuesday, tossing his racquet towards his bag before shaking hands with Paire at the net. But the Australian will now face World No.135 Zizou Bergs in the opening round of the main draw and has a good chance of advancing to the round of 64.

In another fortunate development, fellow Aussie Chris O'Connell also received a lucky loser spot after he lost in qualifying as well. He will face Frenchman Richard Gasquet in his opening match.

Meanwhile, Aussies Jordan Thompson and Aleksandar Vukic managed to qualify for the main draw with wins on Tuesday. World No.83 Thompson defeated Tomas Machac 6-4 3-6 6-3 in a close three-set battle to book his main card spot. Vukic got the better of US player Aleksandar Kovacevic in straight sets, winning 6-3 7-6 (7-4).

They will join Alexei Popyrin and Jason Kubler in the round of 128. Top seeded Australian Alex de Minaur will begin his title bid in the round of 64.

Fans were initially left shattered for Kokkinakis after he came so close to qualifying for both Indian Wells and the Miami Open. One fan on Twitter described his loss as 'painful to watch', while others were thrilled to see the Aussie make the main draw after his effort against Paire.

Thanasi Kokkinakis tweet sends tennis fans wild

Earlier in the week, Kokkinakis caused a stir after the Indian Wells final between Elena Rybakina and Aryna Sabalanenka. Rybakina triumphed over Sabalenka and the pair were in good spirits in the post-match trophy celebration.

And Kokkinakis took to social media to compliment the Indian Wells champion. "Rybakina looks like the nicest girl ever."

The Aussie inadvertently sparked a fan frenzy with the tweet, with many tennis fans wondering what he had in mind. Kokkinakis was forced to send a follow-up tweet after being flooded with replies, writing: Not having a crack, relaaaax," with a laughing emoji.

Thanasi Kokkinakis, pictured here in action against Carlos Alcaraz at Indian Wells.
Thanasi Kokkinakis in action against Carlos Alcaraz at Indian Wells. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Aussie was seemingly commenting on Rybakina's post-match comments in which she heaped praise on Sabalenka. "It's actually the first time it goes my way," Rybakina said as she accepted the trophy. A smiling Sabalenka then interjected: "I will make sure it was the last one." Rybakina laughed and said: "We'll see next time."

However, Kokkinakis is certainly not alone in praising Rybakina's humble and quiet attitude since winning her maiden grand slam title at Wimbledon in 2022.

with AAP

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