A NEVER-say-die attitude from fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and Australian favourite Thanasi Kokkinakis was on full display in yet another Rod Laver classic match yesterday at the Australian Open. The second round encounter had the Greek star overwhelming favourite against the talented local who has battled with injuries over the past few years, but clearly has the talent to be a top ATP Tour player.
In an unbelievable four-hour and 32-minute slog fest, Tsitsipas finally got up 6-7 6-4 6-1 6-7 6-4 but Kokkinakis lost no fans along the way – including Tsitsipas himself – having pushed the 2019 ATP Finals winner to the brink.
“I think he has a huge forehand, [a] very good serve,” Tsitsipas said of Kokkinakis’ game post-match. “All the potential is there. 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. “I just wish him good health and that he can compete an entire year without any pain or anything bothering him.”
Kokkinakis had a well balanced game and out-served Tsitsipas with 23 aces to 17 and two less double faults (8-10), though the Greek star won 86 and 56 per cent of his first and second serve points compared to 72 and 46 per cent. The big factor was the break point conversions, with Tsitsipas breaking five times from 22 chances to the Australian’s zero from three. The fifth seed also hit 78 winners to 58, and 16 less unforced errors (46-62).
“[It was a] great match towards the very end, and I fought like a lion,” Tsitsipas said. “I fought like a real warrior out there, and it was an amazing ending with lots of emotion and great spirit.”
Tsitsipas will have to recover quickly to take on Swede Mikael Ymer tomorrow who took care of Spanish qualifier and wonderkid, Carlos Alcaraz after dropping the first set, 2-6 6-4 6-4 7-5. Ymer was one of just six unseeded players to advance through to the next round, with most at the expense of Australians. Macedonian Radu Albot knocked off wildcard Christopher O’Connell in straight sets, 6-2 7-5 7-6, while South Africa’s Lloyd Harris needed five sets to post a win over another wildcard in Alexei Popyrin, 6-2 1-6 6-3 6-7 6-3. After only dropping one game in his first match, Russian qualifier Roman Safiullin was brought back to earth, losing in four sets to Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie.
The only two other unseeded players to make it to the Round of 32 were those who knocked out a couple of seeds in United States’ Mackenzie McDonald and Spain’s Feliciano Lopez. McDonald knocked off 22nd seed Croatian Borna Coric 6-4 6-2 4-6 6-4, while Lopez toppled 31st seed Lorenzo Sonego 5-7 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-4 coming back from two sets to love down to win in three hours and 18 minutes over the Italian out on Court 7.
It was certainly an interesting day for the Italians to say the least, with 16th seed Fabio Fognini and compatriot Salvatore Caruso going toe-for-toe over five sets on John Cain Arena, and then a little more post-match. Fognini won 4-6 6-2 2-6 6-3 7-6, including 14-12 in the deciding tiebreak, where the Top 20 player was questioning Caruso’s luck throughout the match and the supervisor had to physically separate them. Nonetheless, Fognini joined fellow ATP Cup finalist, Matteo Berrettini in the next round after his younger compatriot knocked off Czech rising qualifier, Tomas Machac in four sets.
Other winners on the day were Russian duo, Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov who waltzed through in straight sets, as did the top two players on display in the night session, Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev. Alex de Minaur was the sole Australian through to the next round in that half of the draw, joining Nick Kyrgios in the third round of the men’s competition, while Casper Ruud and FIlip Krajinovic also won though after defeating their respective opponents in four sets.
Entering the third round tomorrow, there are a number of mouthwatering clashes, as Berrettini and Khachanov do battle, as do de Minaur and Fognini. Russian pair Medvedev and Rublev seem to have an easier run to a potential quarter final now with 24th seed Ruud and 28th seed Krajinovic the sole remaining seeds in that quarter of the draw.
In today’s action, all eyes will be on the all-Canadian battle between Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime, as well as the blockbuster battle between third seed and last year’s runner-up Dominic Thiem taking on Australian Nick Kyrgios. Adrian Mannarino locking horns with Alexander Zverev is an underrated battle, while 27th seed Taylor Fritz will take his shot at world number one and tournament favourite Novak Djokovic.
ROUND OF 64 RESULTS:
 Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated [Q] Michael Mmoh (USA) 6-1 6-4 6-2
 Daniil Medvedev (RUS) defeated Roberto Carballes Baena (ESP) 6-2 7-5 6-1
 Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated [WC] Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) 6-7 6-4 6-1 6-7 6-4
 Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated Thiago Monteiro (BRA) 6-4 6-4 7-6
 Matteo Berrettini (ITA) defeated [Q] Tomas Machac (CZE) 6-3 6-2 4-6 6-3
 Fabio Fognini (ITA) defeated Salvatore Caruso (ITA) 4-6 6-2 2-6 6-3 7-6
 Karen Khachanov (RUS) defeated Ricardas Berankis (LTU) 6-2 6-4 6-4
 Alex de Minaur (AUS) defeated Pablo Cuevas (URU) 6-3 6-3 7-5
[PR] Mackenzie McDonald (USA) defeated  Borna Coric (CRO) 6-4 6-2 4-6 6-4
 Casper Ruud (NOR) defeated Tommy Paul (USA) 3-6 6-2 6-4 7-5
 Filip Krajinovic (SRB) defeated Pablo Andujar (ESP) 6-2 5-7 6-1 6-4
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) defeated  Lorenzo Sonego (ITA) 5-7 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-4
Radu Albot (MDA) defeated [WC] Christopher O’Connell (AUS) 6-2 7-5 7-6
Lloyd Harris (RSA) defeated [WC] Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 6-2 1-6 6-3 6-7 6-3
Mikael Ymer (SWE) defeated [Q] Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) 2-6 6-4 6-4 7-6
Cameron Norrie (GBR) leads [Q] Roman Safiullin (RUS) 3-6 7-5 6-3 7-6
Picture credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour