Stefanos Tsitsipas fended off Greek-Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-7(5) 6-4 6-1 6-7(5) 6-4 and reached the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday.
The fifth seed battled hard in a four-hour 32-minute epic against the 267th-ranked Kokkinakis.
Fans were on the edge of their seats for the entire game.
Despite losing the fourth set tiebreak, the 22-year old Tsitsipas came back hitting hard to progress to the third round, where he will meet Sweden’s Mikael Ymer for a place in the fourth round.
However, the gallant Kokkinakis proved he can challenge the world’s best – firing 23 aces and 58 winners in the five-set thriller.
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Huge potential for Kokkinakis
“Thanasi is a great fighter. It was extremely difficult to face him today, he has huge potential. He is a greater server and has huge shots from the baseline,” Tsitsipas said after his win.
“I know he wasn’t able to play for many years, but I’m pleased to see him back competing at a very high level,” he added.
The margins between their levels were minute, with Kokkinakis producing outstanding tennis in only his third tour-level match since September 2019.
It was also his first match against a top 10-ranked opponent in almost three years and first five-set match since the US Open in 2017.
The form shown, and the way he managed to battle for four hours and 32 minutes, bodes well for Kokkinakis as he attempts to reignite his career after a challenging run with injuries and setbacks.
Tsitsipas: youngest player ranked in the top 10
Tssitsipas is the youngest player ranked in the top 10 by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and has a career-high ranking of No. 5 in the world, making him the highest-ranked Greek player in history.
He was the champion at the 2019 ATP Finals, becoming the youngest winner of the year-end championships in eighteen years. He has won five singles titles and reached ten finals on the ATP Tour.
He has also reached two Grand Slam semifinals — at the 2019 Australian Open and the 2020 French Open.