Thanasi Kokkinakis has won his first career ATP title after beating Arthur Rinderknech in the Adelaide International 2 final on Saturday night.
The Australian wildcard was a mini-break down in the second-set tiebreak before recovering to win 6-7(6) 7-6(5) 6-3 at Memorial Drive Tennis Centre.
Given the 25-year-old’s harrowing history of physical injuries since his breakout season in 2015, this was an especially emotional triumph.
The fact that it came in his home city, before an atmospheric Centre Court crowd, made it all the more poetic.
Congratulations, champion!! pic.twitter.com/4M8tJSfYfh
— TennisAustralia (@TennisAustralia) January 15, 2022
Kokkinakis is projected to rise to world No.103 when the next rankings are released on Monday, his highest position since February 2016.
And it continues his dream start to the season; Kokkinakis has won eight of nine matches after reaching the semifinals at last week’s Adelaide International 1.
He began the fortnight ranked No.171.
“When I saw that final ball went long, I don’t think I’ve ever felt emotions like that,” Kokkinakis reflected.
“You grow up playing, you never know if it’s ever going to happen. I made one (ATP) final before.
“Down a set, down a mini break in the breaker. From then on, from 2-0 in the second set, I started to play really good tennis.
“To do it in Adelaide, a court I grew up playing on when I was seven, eight, nine years old, my hometown, in front of friends and family, they’ve had a tough year, ridden the ups and downs with me, yeah, I’m so happy.”
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) January 15, 2022
In a match dominated by the serve, neither player generated a break point in the first two sets.
But in the second set tiebreak, a noticeable shift occurred; from 2-0 down, Kokkinakis reeled off five straight points, the fifth with a forehand winner.
Both he and the crowd became increasingly energised, and a few points later he slammed down an unreturnable serve to send the match to a third.
In the very first game of the final set, Kokkinakis’ momentum was such that he generated the first break point of the contest – which he converted thanks to a Rinderknech error.
With the break in hand, all Kokkinakis had to do was continue holding serve.
And he did just that, smacking a forehand winner to hold to love and extend his lead to 4-2, and producing another forehand winner for 5-3.
He didn’t even need to serve for the match, returning brilliantly and forcing errors to arrive at 0-40 – and three championship points.
Kokkinakis converted when Rinderknech fired a final backhand long, and the title was his.
“Just many, many emotions. Just relief. Happy. Not just for myself and the work I put in, but everyone that stuck by me. They see me at my lowest points,” Kokkinakis said.
“To ride this high, it’s just validation, just happiness for everyone involved. It’s as much their title as it is mine.
“Just emotions boiled over. I started to get little feelings of it when I got up a break in the third set. I tried to stay as composed at possible. I started serving great.
“I know how hard it is serving out matches, maybe serving out a title. I just decided to stay with it and break for the win.”
Earlier on Saturday, No.3 seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski combined to win the men’s doubles title over Gonzalo Escobar and Ariel Behar.
The Dutch-British pairing won 7-6(5) 6-4 to win their second straight title after their victory at last week’s Melbourne Summer Set.
— Adelaide International (@AdelaideTennis) January 15, 2022