Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis one win away from achieving his first ATP tournament triumph

Thanasi Kokinakis recalls being a wide-eyed kid watching a tennis tournament in his hometown of Adelaide, he was happy to catch a wrong ball fired into the crowd from John-Wilfried Tsonga’s racket.

He thought those were the days, when he thought to himself how cool it would be to win a title like that – but he could never convince himself that it would really happen one day.

Well, on Saturday night on Memorial Drive this dream come true for the boy who got back from his hometown which was simply the best story in Australian tennis this year.

Because after an 11-year career where he hit the heights as a teenage “phenomenon” and fell deep with injuries that nearly convinced him to retire, he’s one game away from lifting his first ATP title.

“It will be phenomenal. It will not be everything, the end of everything [as] There are a lot of great players who haven’t won any titles [but]Sure, I’m thinking about it,” admitted the 25-year-old Kokinakis, who faces France’s Arthur Rinderkneich in the Adelaide International Final.

He was speaking shortly after an extraordinary victory in a nerve-wracking semi-final as he squandered six match points and needed to save two from him before defeating former US Open champion Marin Cilic 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (12-10).

When asked about where this was in his career initially, the man who once tamed Roger Federer in Miami asked, “Exactly there, I think.

“To do that in Adelaide as well, after kind of the last few years I’ve had, yeah, I mean, maybe number one.

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“Being over the top players last week and this week. I’m proud of my consistency. Proud of my mental effort.”

It has truly been an amazing start to the year for a player whose struggles with countless injuries to his shoulder, chest, thighs, knee and elbow have interrupted what was to be an amazing career.

The man who started the year at 171 in the world rankings could still jump two places out of the top 100 should he win the final. The last time he was in that category was six years ago.

Kokinakis reached the semi-finals of his first Australian Open warm-up tournament in Adelaide last week and now has seven wins in eight matches in 2022 to claim his first ATP final in five years.

“I think the most important thing for my confidence is just being able to back up and do that game by game. That’s something I haven’t proven in a long time. Doing it in weeks on end is great,” Kokinakis said.

He had already thought about missing out on this week’s event. “But I can’t pass up an opportunity to play another round in my hometown,” he smiled, acknowledging that his only problem was getting enough sleep with all the excitement late at night.

Now he could enter next week’s tournament with that first title to his name even if he feels the world’s 58th-ranked, Rinderknech, another senior server, will take all the blows.

AAP

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