Injury Heartache Propels Thanassi Kokkinakis To 'Huge' Win At Queen’s - UBITENNIS
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Injury Heartache Propels Thanassi Kokkinakis To ‘Huge’ Win At Queen’s

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LONDON: In only his fourth competitive tournament of the year, injury-stricken Thanassi Kokkinakis has grabbed a fairytale 7-6(5), 7-6(8) win over third seed Milos Raonic at the Aegon Championships.

 

The two-hour tussle saw opportunities come and go for both players. Raonic, last year’s runner-up at the tournament, failed to convert a total of eight break points during the opening set. Meanwhile, Kokkinakis was unable to work his way to a single opportunity. Nevertheless, the Australian managed to grab the crucial lead in the tiebreaker to close it out 7-5.

Cheer on by team mate Nick Kyrgios in the crowd, Kokkinakis’ determination was flawless. Fighting hard for every point, he matched the world No.6 game-by-game. Besides the 692-place gap between the two in the world rankings, it was hard to separate them on the court. Raonic has the greater experience and longer period of health, but Kokkinakis had the desire and it was desire the elevated him to the straight sets triumph.

“It’s huge. Best win of my career. And to do it so soon after coming back on such a long layoff is a huge confidence booster for me.” Said Kokkinakis.
“I have been practicing pretty good, and then come out on the court and I’m nervous as anything. My first few forehands, hit the back fence, I’m, like, ‘Jeez this is bad again.’ Luckily my serve helped me in it, and then I won the big points when it mattered, so it’s huge.”

Tuesday’s achievement comes after what has been a brutal 18-month period for Kokkinakis. Initially, it was a shoulder injury that halted his progression on the tour. During the one-and-a-half year struggle he also nursed issues with his abdomen, Groin, external oblique and elbow. At one point it all got too much for the Australian, who contemplated quitting the sport earlier this year.

“I was just like breaking racquets every day in practice and that’s not me. I was just hating it. Winning and playing well in practice was good, but then I wasn’t translating. I just didn’t feel that confident. I felt like some of those issues I was having a long time were still there, and I just wasn’t feeling great with my game.” He reflected about his previous difficulties.

Choosing to not give up, Kokkinakis has credited his resurgence to the support of his team. The most notable being Todd Langman, a coach he has seeked guidance from since the age of 9. Seconds after defeating Raonic, the Australian was seen lifting his hands in celebration. A moment he described as the ‘happiest he has ever felt’ after a three-set match.

Raonic leads the praise

Reflecting upon his loss, a down to earth Raonic was unsurprised by his opponents triumph. He is the highest ranked player to lose to the Australian on the ATP Tour at sixth in the world. The loss is a blow to the Canadian, who recently appointed doubles specialist Mark Knowles to guide him throughout the grass-court season this year.

“I practiced with him I guess before Istanbul, so shortly after Monte-Carlo. And to be frank, I was actually surprised when I saw his results that he wasn’t doing better, because he was hitting the ball well.” Raonic said about Kokkinakis.
“I knew he was still struggling a little bit playing consecutively with his arm, but he was hitting the ball extremely well at that point. I followed his draws over the last week, so no, I’m not surprised by his level by any means.”

Raonic’s high praise for the 21-year-old comes as he reflects upon his missed chance. Speaking about the nine break points he failed to convert, the Canadian admitted he ‘wasn’t efficient’ in the match and lacked discipline.

It is too early to tell if this win will elevate Kokkinakis back to the top more swiftly after his recent misfortunes. A two-time junior grand slam finalist, he has been ranked as high as 69th in the world prior to injury. Once a tennis prodigy, Raonic is dampening down the Kokkinakis hype with a realistic outlook. When questioned about if the Australian could potentially crack the top ten one day, the third seed provided a grounded response.

“The question of top 10 doesn’t depend on one guy. It depends possibly on 10 guys ahead of you or more.” Raonic explained. “Also depends on who else is there at that moment and what other players have to say. That’s not only dependent on the individual himself.”

Kokkinakis will play Nicolas Mahut or Daniil Medvedev in the second round.

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Liam Broady On Why He Wore Rainbow Laces During His Australian Open Match

Following his first round defeat, the Brit spoke about why he believes it is important to speak out in support of the LGBT community.

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Image via https://twitter.com/the_LTA/status/

It is sometimes the small gestures which go a long way and Liam Broady showed that during his first round match at the Australian Open.

 

Taking to the John Cain Arena for his night-time clash against Nick Kyrgios, the qualifier embarked upon a situation he had never experienced before with a boisterous crowd cheering on their home player. At times the atmosphere resembled that a football match with fans drinking beer and chanting Christiano Roinaldo’s ‘siu’ celebration. The reason as to why they were doing that particular chant was unclear.

Broady ended up falling 6-4, 6-4, 6-3, to Kyrgios who will next play the formidable Daniil Medvedev. Throughout the match the world No.128 was wearing rainbow laces and he did so for a special reason.

“I just kind of wanted to send the support. I know obviously within men’s tennis — is it a taboo? I don’t think it’s really a taboo, but I’ve seen questions before about why there aren’t any openly gay men on the tour, and I just wanted to kind of voice my support in that kind of general area,” Broady explained during his press conference.
“And the LGBTQ community, I mean, a lot of those guys have given me a lot of support throughout my career and have been there since day one, so I kind of wanted to give a thank you in my own sort of way.”

The Rainbow Laces initiative was created by LGBT charity Stonewall and initially marketed specifically towards football’s Premier League before later expanding into other sports. The idea is to get players to wear rainbow laces in order to raise awareness of LGBT representation within sport.

Tennis is renowned for having some of the most formidable LGBT athletes over the years with the likes of pioneers such as Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova who were among some of the first to speak openly about their sexuality. However, on the men’s Tour it is somewhat different. There are currently no openly gay players and only a small handful in the past. Although most of those players, such as Brian Vahaly, came out after retiring from the sport.

“I saw that the first openly gay footballer just came out in Australia (Josh Cavallo) a month or two ago. And it’s difficult, right? I mean, it’s a big thing to do and at the end of the day in the 21st century, it’s pretty rubbish that people don’t feel like they can be openly gay. It’s quite sad, really,” Broady continued.
“Hopefully I will help raise awareness for it and if there are people in the locker rooms and you kind of, you don’t want to force them to come out, you know, especially if they don’t want to. It’s their choice.’
“So you just got to try and support in the way you can and just let them know that everything’s okay.”

It is not the first time the 28-year-old has spoken out about LGBT rights. In 2018 he criticized Margaret Court who likened gay-rights activists to Adolf Hitlef in terms of what she claims is ‘propaganda.’ Court has a history of making anti-LGBT remarks despite insisting that she has nothing against gay people.

Broady says he doesn’t personally know of any gay player on the Tour. Although if there was, he assumed that it would be known because the sport is a ‘pretty leaky ship’ when it comes to having private details revealed online.

On Monday the Australian Open will launch their first ever Pride Day at the tournament.

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Australian Open: Pablo Carreno Busta Through But Fabio Fognini Stunned

Busta has booked his place in the second round at Melbourne Park for the sixth year in a row.

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Pablo Carreno Busta - image via https://twitter.com/SuperTennisTv/

On day one of the Australian Open, Spanish ace Pablo Carreno Busta sealed an efficient straight-sets win to take his place in the second round.

 

The Spaniard was no match for Argentinian qualifier Tomas Etcheverry coming through 6-1, 6-2, 7-6 (7-2).

The 30-year-old from Giron sailed through the opening set that included two breaks in the fourth and sixth game.

Etcheverry, who won three matches to qualify for the Australian Open, improved in the second set.

However, it wasn’t enough as Carreno-Busta flicked through the gears breaking his younger opponent in the third and seventh game to seal the set.

In the third, the 2017 and 2020 US Open semi-finalist took an early break of serve, only to be pegged back by Etcheverry who forced a tie-break.

It wasn’t to be for the 22-year-old though as Carreno-Busta turned up the heat with some big groundstrokes to move into round two.

Next up for the world number 21 is Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor who thrashed a poor Fabio Fognini in straight sets.

The out of sorts Italian was beaten 6-1, 6-4, 6-4.

Having lost in the first round of the US Open in September, the former world number world number is nine is in danger of slipping outside the top 40.

Having shown much promise to win a first Masters 1000 in Monte Carlo back in 2019, the husband of former US Open champion Flavia Pennetta, looks desperately short of motivation and confidence.

Fognini is yet to go beyond the fourth-round of a major, and at 34 time is running out for him to mine the potential that made him one of the sports best juniors growing up alongside Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic.

Elsewhere, former Australian Open star Lucas Pouille, was knocked out in round one by fellow Frenchman Corentin Moutet.

Wildcard Pouille has endured a glut of injuries since making the semi-finals at Melbourne Park three years ago.

The 27-year-old has now fallen to 159 in the world. 

Pouille made a bright start to take the opening set 6-3, but his lack of fitness and confidence soon showed, as he lost the following sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.

Czech Jiri Vesley, also slumped out to American wildcard Stefan Kozlov 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.

He will face seventh seed Matteo Berrettini next.

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Cameron Norrie Puzzled By Australian Open Defeat

It was a bad day at the office for the British number one.

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Cameron Norrie ad Indian Wells 2021 (Credits: @BNPPARIBASOPEN on Twitter)

Cameron Norrie is finding it hard to pinpoint where it all went wrong for him in his first round match at the Australian Open.

 

The 12th seed could only win seven games against Sebastian Korda as he crashed out 6-3, 6-0, 6-4, after just over 100 minutes of play. It is the third time in four appearances that Norrie has fallen in the first round at Melbourne Park but last year he did manage to reach the third round. Against his American rival, he hit 29 unforced errors compared to 23 winners and was broken five times.

I had a week off to prepare, prepared as well as I could, and I was just slow, I was missing routine backhands, which I never miss,” Norrie said during his press conference.
“I honestly can’t put a finger on it. I just need to get better and improve. Lots to work on.’
“Any time I had a chance to kind of come back, he (Korda) served his way out of it. And on the bigger points he was much better than me. I didn’t play well in any big points today.”

It has been a far from smooth start to 2022 for the 26-year-old who also suffered disappointment at the ATP Cup earlier this month. In the team tournament he lost all three of his singles matches to Alexander Zverev, Taylor Fritz and Felix Auger-Aliassime. Zverev is the only one of the trio currently ranked higher than him.

Perhaps the most concerning aspect of Norrie’s latest defeat is the fact he seemed perplexed about why he played the way he did. Asked by one journalist if he was possibly suffering any lingering affects from catching COVID-19 during the festive period he replied ‘No, I think I prepared as well as I can, and I felt fine physically, fine mentally.’

Norrie was one of the breakthrough stars last year on the ATP Tour when he raced up the world rankings. He featured in six Tour finals across three different surfaces and won the biggest title of his career at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. The stellar season earned him a place at the ATP Finals as a reserve and he even played two matches following the withdrawal of Stefanos Tsitsipas due to injury.

“I don’t know why I played the way I did today. I was feeling good physically,” he said. “Yeah, I played a lot of matches (last year) but this is what we (tennis players) are paid to do and just not good enough. I just need to raise my standards, practice, matches, and execute a lot better.”

Of course, credit has to be given to Korda, who is making his debut at Melbourne Park. The American had a far from ideal preparation for the tournament after testing positive for COVID-19 which forced him to withdraw from two warm-up events.

21-year-old Korda has now beaten a top 20 player on six separate occasions. He will play France’s Corentin Moutet in the second round.

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