Kovacevic survives Kokkinakis in three-hour Houston thriller

Purcell claws past Michelsen
April 03, 2024
Aleksandar Kovacevic defeats Thanasi Kokkinakis in three sets Tuesday to reach the second round in Houston. By ATP Staff

Fortune favours the brave in Aleksandar Kovacevic’s mind. That attitude worked well for the American in his three-hour, 16-minute thriller Tuesday evening in Houston.

The former University of Illinois standout battled past Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis 7-6(3), 6-7(2), 6-4 behind courageous shotmaking to reach the second round of the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship.

“Go for it. That's the only thing you can really tell yourself is be brave and in those big moments, kind of just let it ride,” Kovacevic said in his on-court interview. “You don't want to have regrets afterwards that you didn't go for your shots and let the other guy win.”

The home favourite saved five of the six break points he faced according to Infosys ATP Stats, with the one break he relinquished coming early in the deciding set. But Kovacevic fired away to get back on serve and ultimately turn the match in his favour.

The 25-year-old had played just two tour-level matches on clay before walking on court in Houston, but won 80 per cent of first-serve points and hit 14 aces to set a showdown with sixth seed Jordan Thompson or the returning Wu Yibing of China.

“I was just trying to get a good performance for my first tournament on clay for this season,” Kovacevic said. “So that's what I did and whether I won or lost, I was still happy with my performance today.”

Seventh seed Marcos Giron of the United States snapped a three-match losing streak with a 6-2, 7-5 victory against former Top 10 star Denis Shapovalov. The Canadian is always dangerous with his powerful lefty game, but Giron took care of his own serve and that proved key.

The American saved the only break point he faced and won 65 per cent of second-serve points to stay out of trouble against Shapovalov.

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Australian Max Purcell, the eighth seed, ousted 2023 Next Gen ATP Finals presented by PIF competitor Alex Michelsen 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-4 after two hours and 49 minutes. Luciano Darderi, who won his first ATP Tour title as a qualifier earlier this year in Cordoba, rallied past American wild card Denis Kudla 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-2.

Dutchman Gijs Brouwer was born in Houston and made the semi-finals at the event last year, but was unable to reach the second round this edition. Australian James Duckworth beat Brouwer 6-3, 6-3.

In other action, Colombian Daniel Elahi Galan surged past Frenchman Benoit Paire 7-6(13), 6-4 and American wild card Michael Mmoh defeated Peruvian Juan Pablo Varillas 6-2, 7-6(4).

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