Kokkinakis overcomes Vukic, meets Cilic in Adelaide semis

13 January 2022, by Matt Trollope

Thanasi Kokkinakis has continued his magnificent fortnight in Adelaide, advancing to back-to-back semifinals at Memorial Drive Tennis Centre.

The 25-year-old outlasted fellow Australian wildcard Aleksandar Vukic 6-7(5) 6-3 6-2 on Thursday night to set up a semifinal against No.4 seed Marin Cilic, who earlier beat Tommy Paul in three sets.

Kokkinakis progressed to the same stage at Adelaide International 1 last week, where he lost to top seed and eventual champion Gael Monfils.

The world No.145 has now won six of seven matches to open the season, posting semifinals at successive ATP tournaments for the first time in his career.

“Couldn’t be happier with the way I’m serving and it’s giving me a chance every match, so hopefully I can keep it up,” said Kokkinakis, who powered 17 aces among 39 winners past Vukic.

“Hopefully I can ride the wave, ride the support again, and keep playing some good tennis, because I’m loving it here.”

No.4 seed Cilic is the only seed remaining in Adelaide after the elimination of Karen Khachanov.

Khachanov, the third seed who beat Cilic to reach last week’s Adelaide final, fell 7-6(7) 7-5 to world No.58 Arthur Rinderknech of France.

Rinderknech will take on fellow Frenchman Corentin Moutet, who ended the run of Brazilian lucky loser Thiago Monteiro 6-4 6-4.

Rinderknech is aiming for a first ATP-level final against an opponent who has appeared in just one, in Doha two years ago.

Kokkinakis prevails in all-Aussie clash

Kokkinakis earned nine break points in the opening set but could not convert any, as Vukic – appearing in the first ATP-level quarterfinal of his career – frequently served his way out of trouble and played with controlled aggression from the back of the court.

He took early control over the subsequent tiebreak and, although Kokkinakis responded by winning four straight points, the lower-ranked Vukic returned strongly and forced errors from his countryman to pocket the opener.

Early in the second set Kokkinakis led Vukic 15-40 but failed to convert either break point, with his break point conversion rate now 0-from-11.

“I was counting them to myself every time they were going by,” Kokkinakis admitted.

“I felt like I could have honestly won the first set maybe 6-1 or 6-2. He was coming up with some good serves, I was being a little bit tentative. I was trying not to lose my marbles completely. And then two went (by) in the second set so I was 0/11, and I was really about to lose it.

“Thankfully I took one and eventually I just let it go and started playing good tennis from the second (set) onwards.”

Indeed, in the eighth game, Kokkinakis brought up a 12th break point with an off-forehand winner, and finally converted thanks to a forcing return off a Vukic first serve.

He celebrated passionately, the crowd responded, and suddenly, the momentum had noticeably turned.

From 3-3 in the second set, Kokkinakis won nine of the last 11 games of the match, increasing in stature as Vukic’s game grew heavy with errors.

“I thought I was doing everything right in the first set but I was just tightening up on every break point,” said Kokkinakis, who is projected to rise to world No.129 with his latest win.

“So when I took that first break point, I think that kind of allowed me to relax a little bit, and then I started to play some free-flowing tennis.”