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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Thursday February 11, 2020


Stefanos Tsitsipas was pushed to the brink by Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis on Day 4 of the Australian Open, but the Greek survived in five sets, pulling away with a 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-1, 6-7(5), 6-4 victory that sets him up for a third-round clash with Mikael Ymer of Sweden.

Tennis Express

Ymer, who was Tsitsipas' practice partner for two weeks during quarantine, took out Carlos Alcaraz in four sets to reach the third round at a major for the first time.

Kokkinakis had the home crowd energized after he snagged the first set in a tiebreaker, and even though he suffered a lull in sets two and three, he once again found the energy to edge the No.5 seed in a fourth set that saw him save a match point while serving at 4-5.

Eventually Kokkinakis, who had won his first Australian Open match since 2015 on Day 2, ripped a backhand winner down the line to close out a perfect tiebreaker and force a fifth.

Tsitsipas began pushing early in the fifth. At first Kokkinakis held him at bay, saving two break points in a 20-point game to hold for 2-1, but Tsitsipas broke through in the fifth game of the set, converting the break on a Kokkinakis backhand error to lead 3-2.

Tsitsipas, who saved all three break points he faced in the contest, held serve the rest of the way to lock up the victory in four hours and 32 minutes.

The loss was disappointing for Kokkinakis, but there was no denying his tennis had been a positive. The Aussie once again showed what type of talent he possesses, the only thing holding him back is his terrible luck with injuries.

"I'm just happy I fought and found different ways, brought up opportunities," Tsitsipas said after the match. "My fighting spirit was there. When I had to play, I played. It's something that he also was dealing with really well."

A former world No.69, Kokkinakis has been besieged by injuries over the last five seasons, and has never been able to stay healthy long enough to build up any momentum on tour. He’s hoping that 2021 will mark a brand new beginning.

"I think, yeah, he has a huge forehand, very good serve, all the potential is there," Tsitsipas said. "I really hope he stays injury-free, because it can be very frustrating. I have dealt with it, and I know it's very difficult mentally to go through things like this."

Tsitsipas is hoping to reach a new level as well. The Greek improved to 3-4 in five-setters over the course of his career, and this year at Melbourne Park he’s bidding to reach his first Grand Slam final at the sight of his first major semifinal, which came in 2019.

 

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