An early-season equation has become clear: Thanasi Kokkinakis and Adelaide equals magic.
One year after lifting his first ATP Tour trophy in Adelaide, the Australian made more memories on his home court Monday evening when he battled past countryman Alexei Popyrin 6-0, 6-7(5), 7-5 after two hours and 45 minutes in the first round of the Adelaide International 2.
“It’s what you play for to be honest. I’ve had many great memories last year as well. Having that home energy and home crowd was crazy. I’m happy I gave them something to cheer about there,” Kokkinakis said. “It was almost going too smoothly, but then when I got the crowd into it and got them fired up, I know that’s what they came to see. It’s why you do all the work in all those tough moments. You remember those feelings and that’s something you can’t replicate other than [in] tennis.”
After falling behind by a break in the third set, it seemed Kokkinakis was on the brink of defeat. But the 26-year-old rallied for an emotional victory to the delight of the fans.
It will not get easier in the second round when Kokkinakis plays top seed Andrey Rublev, the No. 6 player in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
“It’s going to be tough. He hits the [heck] out of the ball. I practised with him two days ago and it’s not easy. We played well, it was a good set. But it’s tricky. He’s a hell of a player,” Kokkinakis said. “It’s not going to be easy, but I’m going to take my game and get after it. It’s going to be a tough match.”
In other action, Spaniard Alejandro Davidovich Fokina ousted reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion Brandon Nakashima 6-2, 7-6(3). Another player who competed in Milan last year, Briton Jack Draper, advanced past Italian Lorenzo Sonego 6-4, 6-2. The lefty saved three of the four break points he faced to claim his first win of the year.
American Mackenzie McDonald let slip a two-set advantage against Daniel Evans three years ago at the Australian Open. McDonald earned a measure of revenge on Monday when he ousted the Briton 7-5, 7-5.
Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic also reached the second round with a 6-4, 7-5 triumph over Briton Kyle Edmund.