Thasani Kokkinakis blasted his way past Kwon Soonwoo to claim his first win at his home grand slam in six years.
The 24-year-old South Australian smashed a whopping 30 winners past his South Korean opponent to win the match 6-4 6-1 6-1.Embed from Getty Images
And after a few turbulent years, fighting off multiple tough injuries and a severe case of glandular fever that forced him to pull out of the 2020 tournament, an emotional Kokkinakis welled up as he spoke after the match.
“At 5-0 (in the third set) I felt this massive roar and cheer from the crowd, and I started tearing up,” Kokkinakis said.
“It was a bit of a soft moment, but there was just so much stuff behind the scenes to get back to that point that not a lot of people realise.”
“I definitely got a bit emotional.“
Thanasi Kokkinakis gets his first win at a major since USO 2019, and first win at the #AusOpen since 2015 (?!)— Nick McCarvel (@NickMcCarvel) February 9, 2021
A real feel good story for a guy who has struggled with so much injury pic.twitter.com/0cNEKMGYpL
Kokkinakis became an overnight Aussie fan favourite in 2015, after winning his opening match of the Australian Open at just 19-years of age.
And the fans were roaring for him again today as he despatched his opponent in straight sets.
“Just playing with that energy and crowd and being able to win – there was so much work behind the scenes and so much pain – it’s just a massive relief.“
Only those close know the journey….— Thanasi Kokkinakis (@TKokkinakis) February 9, 2021
Grateful I get another chance at this thing🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/SLxi1EVHNl
The Australian came out of the blocks early, breaking his opponent in the opening game and served out the remainder of the first set.
He struck again early in the second, winning three breaks to extend a nine-game winning streak into the third set to defeat Soonwoo in just over an hour and thirty minutes.
“My serve was a massive part, and I thought I kept my composure very well. “
“My body feels really good at the moment so I can’t wait to get out there and have another crack.”
Roger sent Thanasi a cute Instagram congratulations message! 😂— Scott Barclay (@BarclayCard18) February 9, 2021
Also, imagine getting a notification asking if you want to accept a message request from Roger Federer! pic.twitter.com/mTU1V88Ahm
He’ll now face off against Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, who defeated Gilles Simon earlier this evening 6-1 6-2 6-1.
De Minaur dominates again
Alex de Minaur got his Australian Open campaign off to a ripping start after annihilating American Tennys Sandgren in just under two hours to win 5-7 1-6 1-6.
After claiming his fourth career title in Antalya last week, de Minaur has been a joy to watch, sweeping through opponents with his lightning speed and excellent counter-attacking game.
And he barely put a foot wrong again today, conceding only 19 errors to Sandgren’s 40, while winning 86 per cent of his first service.Embed from Getty Images
“I was able to get through the first-set nerves and loosen up a bit and play some of my best tennis, so I’m very happy with that,” de Minaur said after the match.
“A big thing with me is to try and stay in the moment, stay focused and try to win every point out there.“
“I’m glad I was able to do that and not let my opponent get back in the match.“
After a cagey start, de Minaur capitalised on some excellent court positioning to score a late break against Sandgren’s serve and win the opening set.
The 21-year-old then found his rhythm, securing a devastating double break in the second set to go on a seven-game winning streak to beat his opponent.
“I came out and played some great tennis in the second and third sets and saved the legs.”
de Minaur will now face Uruguayan Pablo Cuevas in the second round.
Ash Barty cruises into the second round
Meanwhile, Ash Barty cruised past her opponent Danka Kovinic in straight sets winning 6-0 6-0.
This is the first grand slam tournament the world No.1 has played in since her semi-finals loss to Sofia Kenin last year.
And she was clinical in her return to grand slam tennis. Defeating Kovinic in just 45 minutes, Barty didn’t drop a single game during the match.
“It felt great to be here,” said Barty. “I tried to stick to my process and routine, but I just wanted to have fun.“
She’ll now move into the next round of the tournament along with compatriots Daria Gavrilova, who defeated Sara Sorribes Tormo in straight sets this evening and Samantha Stosur who beat Destanee Aiava in an All-Australian stand-off.
But Aussie wild cards Alexei Popyrin and Christopher O’Connell were the stars of the day downing two tennis giants, David Goffin and Jan Lennard-Struff, to reach the second round of the tournament. Find out more here!
Featured Image: Thanasi Kokkinakis by pmenzel86 // https://www.flickr.com/photos/133535073@N08/42576189672 // Licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/