27 March 2018 | Tennis Australia

Thanasi Kokkinakis got agonisingly close to victory before going down in a final set tie-break to Fernando Verdasco at the Miami Open.

The Australian qualifier, who stunned Roger Federer in his previous match, lost 3-6 6-4 7-6(4) in just under three hours to miss out on a quarter-final place.

Verdasco and Kokkinakis got involved in a heated exchange midway through the second set when the Spaniard complained of somebody in the crowd disrupting his service motion, only for the Australian to counter that it was in fact his father.

“He wasn’t disrespecting you, that’s my dad, so that’s affecting me,” Kokkinakis told Verdasco at a changeover.

The match itself reached a dramatic conclusion – Verdasco trailed 3-1 in the deciding set and fought back from 3-0 down in the tie-break, a run of four straight points shifting the momentum decisively in favour of the Spanish 31st seed.

Kokkinakis had shown fighting qualities of his own to save four break points in a gripping game at 4-4 in the decider.

It was not to be, but the 21-year-old from Adelaide still enjoyed a remarkable week having needed a wildcard to get into qualifying as he is ranked down at 175 in the world.

After shoulder surgery in 2015 and subsequent injuries to his abdominals, pectoralis, groin and ankle, Kokkinakis is finally feeling fit and able to deliver on the huge promise he has shown since junior days.