In a third-set tiebreak for the ages, Thanasi Kokkinakis overcame fourth seed Marin Cilic to advance to the final of Adelaide International 2.
Kokkinakis required seven match points, and was also forced to save two of his own, to eventually seal a 6-2 3-6 7-6(10) triumph.
Raising the roof! 🙌
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) January 14, 2022
After reaching the semifinals at Adelaide International 1 last week, the Australian wildcard has gone one better this week to set up a clash with Arthur Rinderknech.
The Frenchman continued his impressive start to 2022 after scoring a 6-1 6-3 win over compatriot Corentin Moutet.
But Kokkinakis has been even more impressive in the early stages of the season, having now won seven of his first eight matches to reach his first ATP final in four-and-a-half years.
“I’m just gonna enjoy this tonight as much as I can, get mentally and physically ready for tomorrow,” Kokkinakis said.
“It’s gonna be a tough final. He (Rinderknech) has played great this week, beaten a lot of quality players.
“But I’ve got to back myself, don’t I? I’ve had a great week.
“It’s been almost five years (since I’ve been in an ATP final). I’m just going to try and enjoy it. Back home, I couldn’t have asked for it anywhere else, honestly.”
Kokkinakis was brilliant in the opening set, breaking in the opening game and again for a 5-2 lead as his enormous forehand proved decisive.
His high level persisted until midway through the second set, when he overcooked a forehand to fall behind 15-40 in the eighth game.
Although he saved those break points, Cilic conjured consecutive winners to break for a 5-3 lead, before serving out the set.
Kokkinakis went down an immediate break in the third as tired errors crept into his game, but he refocused and broke back in the fourth game.
Games went with serve until the tiebreak, at which point Kokkinakis surged to a 6-2 lead courtesy of an overhead winner.
The atmosphere was electric, but soon became muted as Kokkinakis committed errors on four of the next five points; his four match points had evaporated, and now Cilic had one of his own.
The Aussie erased that with a bold backhand up the line, and Cilic’s second match point with an ace.
Eventually, on his seventh attempt, Kokkinakis prevailed.
"Bring the same energy tomorrow!"
Kokkinakis thanked the crowd for getting him through tonight's epic – but made one request at the end. ❤️
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) January 14, 2022
“I felt the buzz. It was crazy. Best atmosphere I’ve played in in some time, maybe the best ever,” Kokkinakis said.
“I played a great breaker up until 6-2, and then I tightened up like nothing else. He got a match point, and I was like, I can either go into my shell, or I can die wondering.
“I just tried to tee off on a backhand line, pulled it off, hit some big serves, and I don’t know, I was just playing on adrenalin.
“You guys (the crowd) got me through.”
Rinderknech wins all-French battle
Rinderknech has now won five of his seven matches to open the season after overpowering Moutet at Memorial Drive Tennis Centre.
The 26-year-old won 90 per cent of points on his first serve and saved both break points he faced as he powered to victory in just one hour and 16 minutes.
Moutet struggled with his emotions throughout the second set, following a lengthy delay when Rinderknech disagreed with the chair umpire over a call.
Moutet became increasingly frustrated with the serving dominance of his 196cm-tall opponent, who advanced to net more than 20 times.
Moutet finished the match with just eight winners to 22 unforced errors.
King Arthur's Court 🤴🇫🇷
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) January 14, 2022
“Of course really happy with this win and to be in the final tomorrow,” Rinderknech said.
“(It’s) really not hard to focus (in a match like this). I actually like it if the guy is trying to go at me; that was his game plan today.
“I guess he can see the score and see if his game plan was good.”
Rinderknech represented France in last week’s ATP Cup and beat Australia’s James Duckworth after competing well against Italian top-10 star Jannik Sinner.
“The ATP Cup was such a great event. I really enjoyed Sydney; enjoying now Adelaide,” he said.
“This is my first time in Australia, actually, so I’m really enjoying the country. Can’t wait to visit Melbourne next week.”