Sublime Thanasi Kokkinakis claims first ever title in stunning hometown upset

Australian gun Thanasi Kokkinakis has finally claimed his first ATP Tour title with a stunning upset victory in his hometown Adelaide.

Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia hits a return against Arthur Rinderknech of France in the men's singles final match at Adelaide International ATP 250 tennis tournament in Adelaide on January 15, 2022. (Photo by Brenton Edwards / AFP)
Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia hits a return against Arthur Rinderknech of France in the men's singles final match at Adelaide International ATP 250 tennis tournament in Adelaide on January 15, 2022. (Photo by Brenton Edwards / AFP)

Thanasi Kokkinakis’ career resurgence has soared to fresh heights as the Australian claimed a first-ever ATP Tour singles title with a clutch victory in his hometown Adelaide.

The world No. 145 stunned world No. 58 Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech in a fiercely tight contest, eventually running out 6-7 (6) 7-6 (5) 6-3 winner.

After the pair traded tie-break victories in the opening two sets, Kokkinakis finally claimed the first break of the match in the opening game of the decider.

He never looked back, breaking his opponent again before holding on for a milestone victory and proceeding to break down in tears.

“I wouldn’t want to win my first title anywhere else,” he told the crowd.

Kokkinakis, 25, burst onto the scene in 2014 and ‘15, soaring to 69th in the world in the latter year. But recurring injuries cruelled his promising rise, as he reached just one final at the ATP Tour level in 2017. Since then, more serious injuries saw him manage just five wins at the tour level between 2019 and the end of 2021, seeing his ranking slide to 171st in the world.

His injury hell includes shoulder, pectoral, knee, groin, elbow and abdominal injuries as well as a serious case of glandular fever, while he also battled mental illness.

But in the last two weeks, he reached the semi-final stage twice – first at the Adelaide International 1, before going even better at the second tournament of the Adelaide double-header.

Kokkinakis saved two match points against former World No. 3 Marin Cilic to book a place in today’s final of the Adelaide International 2 in a near-three-hour 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (10) victory.

In front of a roaring and parochial crowd, Kokkinakis out-served his opponent, landing 18 aces to 15 and never double-faulting. He did not face a single break point and was unflappable with the match on the line in the second set tie-break.

Kokkinakis has already soared from 171st in the world to 145th, a ranking that is set to launch towards the brink of the top 100 when rankings are updated on Monday.

The Australian’s attention now turns to his home Grand Slam, with a potential second-round meeting with Rafael Nadal offering Kokkinakis an opportunity for redemption after being comfortably beaten by the Spaniard in 2014.

“You guys have seen me at my lowest lows and now my highest highs,” an emotional Kokkinakis told his team after sealing victory in the final.

Originally published as Sublime Thanasi Kokkinakis claims first ever title in stunning hometown upset

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