Thanasi Kokkinakis’s brilliant run at the Adelaide International has come to an end after a pulsating semifinal clash with Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut.
The world No.26 held his nerve in front of the Australian’s home crowd to record a 7-6(4) 3-6 6-3 victory.
Kokkinakis generated 12 break point chances throughout the match, including nine in the third set, but converted only one of them for the evening.
Bautista Agut by contrast created just the one chance, which ultimately decided the match, with the 2019 Wimbledon semifinalist feeling strong and ready for a big season.
Only seven points were won against the first serve of either player in the opening set, with Kokkinakis sending down nine aces to one and striking 21 winners.
Bautista Agut kept the errors down and it was decisive in the tiebreak, as the Spaniard played flawless tennis, taking every point on his own serve on the way to claiming the first set.
Kokkinakis kept the pressure on in the second, with another nine aces to two, and the Australian won 93 per cent of points on his first serve.
Neither player created a break point until the eighth game of the set when Kokkinakis grabbed three, converting the last of them to take the lead and close out the set on serve.
The 26-year-old South Australian had three break points in the opening game of the set, another five in the fifth game, and one more in the final game but it was Bautista Agut who broke for a 2-0 lead, an advantage he would never relinquish.
Bautista Agut spoke glowingly of his opponent after the match.
“He’s a very good player, he was serving unreal, he loves this court, and he has a heap of potential, so all the best to him,” he said.
The Spaniard will take on Soonwoo Kwon in the final after Kwon won a marathon of his own.
The South Korean blasted his way into the championship match with a superb display of hitting in a three-set marathon against emerging Brit Jack Draper.
The match point was fittingly sealed with one of many blistering forehand winners in a 7-6 (6) 6-7 (2) 6-3 scoreline.
Aiming to add to the title he collected in Astana in 2021, Kwon entered the Adelaide International 2 main draw as a lucky loser and has capitalised superbly. After victory over Tomas Machac in the first round, the South Korean defeated Pablo Carreno Busta and Mikael Ymer to reach the final four.
Against Draper, the South Korean showcased his full array of dazzling shotmaking. Kwon closed out the opening set tiebreak with probably the shot of the tournament, launching a thunderous forehand past the outstretched Brit.
It was a high-octane first set, with 31 winners struck between both players, complementing their 15 aces.
Draper made only six unforced errors for the set but three of them came in the breaker,which proved crucial.
Kwon looked the player most likely to break during the second set, but the 21-year-old Brit hung on to force another tiebreak before seizing control to level the contest.
In a match dominated by serve it was the 25-year-old Kwon who eventually broke early in the third set, which proved decisive as he maintained his lead to close it out.
In sweltering conditions, Kwon’s fitness and speed proved telling in the 38-degree heat of Adelaide’s afternoon sun.
“It was a very difficult match today. I would like another two hours though,” Kwon said with a grin.
“He put up a great fight, and I learned a lot from last time I played him.”
For Kwon this was a reversal of last week’s result where Draper beat him convincingly 6-2 6-1 on the same court, and it earns him a spot in his second career ATP final, having previously won the Astana Open in Kazakhstan in 2021.
“Last week he played very well. I tried to be more aggressive and I’m really happy it worked for me.”