Kokkinakis Downs Wawrinka In Roland Garros Marathon
Thanasi Kokkinakis showcased all the spirit, persistence and determination required to defeat a Roland Garros champion at the clay-court major on Wednesday, where the Australian took out Stan Wawrinka 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-3.
Kokkinakis had turned a set-and-a-break deficit into a two-sets-to-one advantage on Court Simonne-Mathieu, but the 2015 winner Wawrinka raced to an ultimately unassailable 5/0 lead in the fourth-set tie-break to force a deciding set in front of an enraptured crowd.
The 27-year-old Kokkinakis recaptured the momentum by charging to a 4-0 lead in the decider, before Wawrinka rallied again. In a dramatic final game at 5-3, the Swiss saved four match points after fighting back from 40/0 down on return, but he was powerless to stop the fifth as Kokkinakis dug deep to claim victory in a four-hour, 38-minute epic.
Having lost in another five-set marathon against another three-time major champion, Andy Murray, at January’s Australian Open, Kokkinakis was delighted to come out on top against Wawrinka as he sealed victory by hitting 51 winners and converting five of 14 break points he earned.
“The first set and a half he was playing I think the best tennis he can play,” said Kokkinakis of the Swiss. “I was just trying to hang in there. I lost a match in a Grand Slam earlier this year against Murray from two sets to love [up], I didn’t want to do it against another legend.
“Having 40/0 [in the last game], you can imagine the things coming into my mind. He never went away. It seemed like when he was down, he was playing better tennis, but I just trusted myself and I’m so happy.”
Prior to his first-round triumph against Daniel Evans, Kokkinakis had not won a main draw match at Roland Garros since 2015, when he reached the third round. The World No. 108 will now bid for his maiden fourth-round appearance at a major when he takes on Karen Khachanov next. The 11th-seeded Khachanov eased past qualifier Radu Albot 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 later on Wednesday.
“Back in the third round on clay, who would’ve thought it for an Australian, but my game suits it here, I love it,” said Kokkinais. “2015 was the last time I won a match at Roland Garros, and I made the third round… I love the energy, I love the atmosphere and we’ll see what happens.”
Andrey Rublev also booked his third-round spot on Wednesday, when the seventh seed held off Corentin Moutet for a 6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory. Home favourite Moutet threatened a comeback after taking the third set and notching an early break of his opponent’s serve in the fourth, but Rublev struck back to seal the set and a two-hour, 58-minute victory.
Rublev’s powerful return game was key to key his victory. The 25-year-old converted five of 14 break points he earned to extend his ATP Head2Head series lead against Moutet to 2-0. Rublev, who lifted his maiden ATP Masters 1000 crown on clay in Monte-Carlo in April, next plays Lorenzo Sonego in Paris. The Italian downed the highest-ranked Frenchman in the draw, Ugo Humbert, 6-4, 6-3 7-6(3).