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Kokkinakis pulls off epic five-set shock at Wimbledon

Kokkinakis celebrates his boilover victory

Source: Wimbledon

A “muppet” in the crowd may have given him the big bird, but Thanasi Kokkinakis has had the last laugh on his way to a famous Wimbledon triumph.

Kokkinakis pulled another of his epic five-set comeback wins out of the fire, recovering from four match points down to knock out 17th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime and transform a miserable, rainy day.

The Aussie completed his two-day, first-round contest against one-time the Canadian wonder boy with a 4-6 5-7 7-6 (11-9) 6-4 6-4 triumph.

The four-hour 38-minute duel followed two epic five-set triumphs for Adelaide’s marathon man at the recent French Open.

He has now gone the distance in five of his six grand-slam matches this year.

“I’d rather not keep playing five-setters,” Kokkinakis sighed with a rueful smile on court, to much laughter.

“It doesn’t help me going deeper into the tournament, that’s for sure.

“Thankfully, it is best-of-five, otherwise I wouldn’t have won many matches this year.”

But this one was particularly satisfying as the 28-year-old had only just returned from injuring his knee when slipping on the grass at Queen’s Club recently. He was proud of how he coped with damp, difficult conditions.

As Wednesday’s match entered its fifth set, the players were jeered by a section of the crowd over a 10-minute break as they pondered whether to continue in potentially treacherous conditions.

Kokkinakis heard the complaints of one particular fan, who shouted “come on, it’s not even raining”, and returned to carve out only his second win at Wimbledon in four visits, 4-6 5-7 7-6 (11-9) 6-4 6-4.

“It just makes it pretty evident how little some crowd members know about tennis,” Kokkinakis said to Auger-Aliassime about their heckler amid the brief stoppage.

Later, Kokkinakis elaborated to reporters: “(The spectator) is saying, ‘It’s not raining, go out there, you can move’.

“All right, have a go and try to move on a dewy grass court. It’s one of the hardest things, especially with me injuring myself at Queen’s and also a couple of years back.

“I’m not going to let some muppet in the crowd dictate when I go back on the court, whether it means waiting two extra minutes.

“I was walking on eggshells a little bit at the start, but it started to get comfortable.”

Kokkinakis had two come-from-behind five-set wins at the recent French Open and also nearly defeated Taylor Fritz in a third.

During the overnight stoppage on Tuesday, after he had saved four match points in the third-set tie-break to keep the match alive, Kokkinakis was inspired by his coach Brandon Walkin, who told him: “Don’t just be happy with this (one set), let’s go out and actually win this match”.

“That stuck with me. As the match went on, I’m like, ‘What’s the difference between me and these guys in winning these important matches?’,” Kokkinakis said.

“Maybe it’s a little bit of belief at times, because I know my game is there when I need it.

“So I just took on the big moments today and played the right way.

“I always hope it could be the platform (for the future), but I’m not thinking like this is a career-defining win … hopefully I can keep going on.

“This is the best I’ve felt, playing on the grass courts. So that’s important.”

He now has a quick turnaround but an eminently winnable second-round match on Thursday against a qualifier, resurgent former French No.1 Lucas Pouille.

If he wins that, a potential third-round all-Aussie contest looms against Alex de Minaur, should the nation’s No.1 first beat Spain’s Jaume Munar.

“Look, I’ve saved match points in this match – I don’t think I’m a sure thing to go to round three,” Kokkinakis said.

“I’m expecting the best version of the Lucas I know.”

 

-AAP

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