Melbourne, Australia, 18 January 2023 | Leigh Rogers

A year after lighting up Melbourne Park with a title-winning run in doubles, Thanasi Kokkinakis is starring on the singles court.

The fan favourite made a commanding start to his Australian Open 2023 singles campaign, completing a 6-1 6-2 6-2 victory against 35-year-old Italian veteran Fabio Fognini today.

Fognini is a former world No.9, who has advanced to the Australian Open fourth round on four occasions, but it was 26-year-old Kokkinakis who shone brightest in their first-round clash.

The world No.159 resumed the rain-delayed match leading 6-1 6-2 4-2, with Fognini serving at 15-40.

Kokkinakis only needed to play six points, winning five of them, to close out a comfortable victory.

“That was some match, I don’t think I’ve experienced anything like that,” Kokkinakis said.

This equals Kokkinakis’ career-best result in an Australian Open singles draw, matching his second-round appearances in 2014, 2015 and 2021.

To progress further, Kokkinakis will need to beat former world No.1 Andy Murray in the second round.

“Andy is someone I respect a great amount. Obviously he has been at the top of the game, and he can relate a little bit with the injury side of things. I missed a fair few years, and so has he, especially recently,” Kokkinakis said.

“He was someone when I came onto tour that was always willing to give some advice. I practised with him a fair bit, I played doubles with him at Indian Wells, so we have a fairly good relationship.

“We get along really well. I actually really like him off the court. I remember watching him when I was younger thinking ‘this dude looks moody as hell, he looks miserable’. Then when you got to know him, he is actually a ripper bloke and a good guy.

“(But I’ll) put all that aside and give it a crack tomorrow.”

Murray, a five-time Australian Open finalist, upset AO 2022 semifinalist and No.13 seed Matteo Berrettini in a five-set thriller yesterday. The 35-year-old Murray sensationally saved a match point in their four-hour and 49-minute battle.

World No.66 Murray owns a winning record against Kokkinakis, beating him in straight sets during the Davis Cup semifinals in 2015.

Earlier today, Max Purcell bowed out in his rain-delayed first-round match with Finland’s Emil Ruusuvuori. The 24-year-old Australian qualifier had six set points in a fourth-set tiebreak, but was unable to convert.

Aleksandar Vukic also lost his opening-round match, exiting in five sets against American qualifier Brandon Holt.

AUSSIES IN ACTION – Australian Open

Men’s singles, first round
Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) d Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-1 6-2 6-2
Emil Ruusuvuori (FIN) d [Q] Max Purcell (AUS) 4-6 6-3 6-4 7-6(11)
[Q] Brandon Holt (USA) d [Q] Aleksandar Vukic (AUS) 6-4 1-6 6-3 3-6 6-3

Men’s singles, second round
[3] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) d [WC] Rinky Hijikata (AUS) 6-3 6-0 6-2
[7] Daniil Medvedev d [WC] John Millman (AUS) 7-5 6-2 6-2
[18] Karen Khachanov d [WC] Jason Kubler (AUS) 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-2

> READ MORE: Kubler’s career-best Australian Open run ends

Women’s singles, second round
Marta Kostyuk (UKR) d [WC] Olivia Gadecki (AUS) 6-2 6-1

Men’s singles, second round
[22] Alex de Minaur (AUS) v Adrian Mannarino (FRA)
Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) v Andy Murray (GBR)
[WC] Alexei Popyrin (AUS) v [8] Taylor Fritz (USA)

Women’s singles, second round
[WC] Kimberly Birrell (AUS) 
v Linda Fruhvirtova (CZE) 

> READ: Australian Open doubles draws revealed

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