Kokkinakis back in winner’s circle
Thanasi Kokkinakis has scored his first tour-level singles win in almost two years with a straight-sets victory over Mikhail Youzhny in 's-Hertogenbosch.
It’s been a long road back from injury but Thanasi Kokkinakis has claimed his first ATP tour win since August 2015.
The 21-year-old, who missed the back end of 2015 and all of 2016 – bar a cameo at the Rio Olympics – with shoulder and abdominal injuries was playing just his third match of 2017 when he beat Russian veteran Mikhail Youzhny 6-4 7-5 in the first round at ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
While it was a day to celebrate for Kokkinakis it wasn’t so for his Australian compatriot Jordan Thompson, who was beaten 6-4 6-1 by Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.
In a match where serve rarely held sway, Kokkinakis and Youzhny traded breaks in both sets with Kokkinakis ultimately prevailing to set up a meeting with fellow 21-year-old Daniil Medvedev of Russia, in the second round.
The Australian said he felt nervous while trying to put former world No.8 Youzhny away, after so long without a singles win.
“It was very tough (to close it out),” Kokkinakis said. “I didn’t get off to a great start, but then came back and played pretty well.
“I was up 6-4, 4-2 and serving really well, but I knew it was going to be tough to keep serving that well the whole match.
“He really started playing a lot better at the back end of the second set. I got a bit tighter for sure. I hadn’t served out a match in a long time. It was good to get those nerves out the way.”
While he got the breakthrough win over Youzhny, Kokkinakis said he is still dealing with getting his body right as Wimbledon approaches.
“It feels great to be competing again, there’s only so long you can practise for. It’s so frustrating being on the practice court for ages,” he said.
“Physically I’m not 100 per cent, still got some things I need to sort out with my body. I’m trying to manage it while I’m playing. That’s the tough part.. I’m trying to get the matches in and that workload into my body.”
The win follows on from the good signs Kokkinakis showed at the French Open, where he took the opening set of his first round match against eventual quarterfinalist Kei Nishikori before falling in four sets.
Medvedev beat sixth-seeded Dutchman Robin Haase 7-6(5) 3-6 6-3, while fifth-seed Steve Darcis was also punted from the tournament, losing 6-2 7-6(3) to Ukrainian veteran Alexandr Dolgopolov.