Kokkinakis shows his mettle
As the world’s best players go head-to-head on centre court fighting for grand slam glory, the up-and-coming players of the future are doing battle on Melbourne Park’s outside courts in the Australian Open 2013 junior competition.
Tennis legends, current top-10 players and popstars were among those in the stands taking in all the junior action on Tuesday.
Australian junior Thanasi Kokkinakis has attracted a lot of attention this month, and his fighting spirit was on show as he booked a place in the third round of the boys’ singles competition, defeating big-hitting Robin Stanek of the Czech Republic 2-6 6-4 6-3 in one hour and 45 minutes on Court 6.
Kokkinakis had Australian tennis legends Tony Roche and John Newcombe keeping an eye on him, while women’s world No. 4 doubles player Lucie Hradecka was vocal in her support of his opponent throughout the match.
As the match moved into the final stages of a tense third set, even musician Redfoo of LMFAO took to the stands to see two young talents in action.
For 16-year-old Kokkinakis, all this attention is something he has had to get used to very quickly. He was thrust into the spotlight at the Hopman Cup in Perth earlier this month, called on as a late replacement for injured American John Isner. Kokkinakis didn’t shy away from the challenge, pushing world No. 24 Fernando Verdasco before teaming with former world No. 1 Venus Williams in a mixed doubles rubber.
He also impressed as a wildcard entrant in the Australian Open men’s singles qualifying tournament, pushing world No. 175 American Steve Johnson, an eventual qualifier, to 17-15 in the deciding set in the first round.
Things weren’t going so well for the Australian teen on Tuesday, with Stanek leading by a break in the second set with a set already in hand.
Stanek, a quarter-finalist last year, was on top but Kokkinakis dug deep trailing 3-4, reeling off the next three games to level the match at one-set all.
“I wasn’t playing my best at the start, but I knew if I kept pressing eventually he would crack and that is what happened,” Kokkinakis said.
“I never really doubted myself and I’m happy with the way I hung in there.”
Games went on serve early in the deciding set until Kokkinakis got the crucial break in the eighth game. The Australian then confidently served out the match, sealing it with an ace.
Kokkinakis next faces Frenchman Enzo Couacaud, who beat Korea’s Ku Keon Kang 6-1 6-3 in the second round.
Kokkinakis was one of three Australian boys’ winners, alongside newly-crowned world No. 1 junior Nick Kyrgios, who beat New Zealand’s Cameron Norrie 6-3 6-1, and wildcard Omar Jasika, who defeated Japan’s Naoki Nakagawa 6-3 6-2.
Italian No. 2 seed Gianluigi Quinzi and South African No. 7 seed Wayne Montgomery were also winners, but 10th seeded German Maximilian Marterer was upset by Croatian Franko Miocic, losing 6-4 6-4.
It was not the day for seeded boys’ doubles teams, with all four in action beaten. Kyrgios and Kokkinakis had the best win, backing up their singles victories by combining to beat No.3 seeds Filippo Baldi of Italy and Stanek 6-3 6-1. Top seeds Borna Coric of Croatia and Serbian Laslo Djere were also eliminated, beaten by Russian Karen Khachanov and Croatian Franko Miocic 2-6 6-3 [10-7].
In the girls’ singles, No.2 seed Katerina Siniakova of Czech Republic was a straight sets winner, while No.5 seed Ching-Wen Hsu of Chinese Taipei and No. 8 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium both needed three sets to book their third round places.
Turkey’s Ipek Soylu scored the biggest upset of the day, beating No. 11 seed Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil 6-4 6-4.
The top seeded teams got through comfortably in the girls’ doubles. No.1 seeded Ana Konjuh of Croatia and Carol Zhao of China beat Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia and Italy’s Guilia Pairone 6-3 6-1, while No.2 seeds Antonia Lottner of Germany and Erin Routliffe of Canada brushing aside Great Britain’s Harriet Dart and Chinese Taipei’s Ching-Wen Hsu 6-3 6-2.