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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Jack Draper Wins In Stuttgart, Potentially Faces Andy Murray in Round Two

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Jack Draper – ATP Monaco di Baviera 2024 (foto via Twitter @atptour)

Britain’s Jack Draper tight first round win headlined the opening day’s results at the Boss Open 2024 in Stuttgart – and possibly faces a second-round match with Andy Murray who takes on Marcos Giron tomorrow.

Less than 24 hours from the last ball being hit at Roland Garros, the ATP Tour had already switched surfaces onto the grass, and 22-year-old Draper was well tested but ultimately came through in two tie-breakers over Sebastian Ofner.

The sixth seed’s 7-6, 7-6 win contained just one break of serve each, both coming in the second set, as serve dominated proceedings on the faster grass courts in Germany.

While the Austrian won 75% on his first serve, Draper won a whopping 89% behind his first delivery as well as hitting eight aces. These kind of service stats will surely take him far during the grass court season.

“I thought it was a really good match,” Eurosport quoted Draper saying after his match. 
“Both of us played really clean tennis, executing really well.
“When it came down to it, I’m glad I competed really well and got over the line – it’s good to be back on the grass as well.”

There were also wins for Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann who won 6-3, 6-3 over wildcard Henri Squire, while compatriot Dominik Koepfer won in three sets over China’s Zhizhen Zhang 4-6, 7-6, 7-6. 

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Carlos Alcaraz Still Owns A Magical Racket

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The legend of Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket lives on.

The 21-year-old Spaniard executed one magical shot after another with his racket and legs  Sunday afternoon in the French Open final. That bit of magic spelled defeat for Germany’s Alexander Zverev.

This was a final to remember, one of the great matches of all the Grand Slams. It just wasn’t in the cards for the 26-year-old Zverev to finally win a Grand Slam title.

HE HAD IT, THEN HE DIDN’T

Both players seemed to play a game of “he had it and then he didn’t.”

Alcaraz appeared to have everything under control in the first set, but Zverev rushed through the second set and then made a comeback from 5-2 down in the third set to win five straight games.

Zverev had everything going for him when he started the fourth set with a two-set advantage. It appeared that all the 6-6 Zverev had to do was to continue playing his masterful game of big serves and mighty ground strokes.

But Zverev couldn’t get started in the fourth set until he was down 4-0. So much for a smooth and easy ride to a Grand Slam title. By then, the magic of Alcaraz was heating up.

MAGIC OF ALCARAZ HEATING UP

Zverev still had his chances, even when he fell behind 2-1 in the fifth set. He had to feel pretty good about his chances when he took a triple break point lead against Alcaraz’s serve and appeared ready to even the set at 2-2. Even after Carlos came up with a winner to bring the  game score to double break point.

Zverev still was ready to even the entire match.

That’s when everything seemed to go haywire for the German, while all the while, Alcaraz was able to repeatedly come up with his magical shots as the Spaniard made critical shots that looked almost impossible to make.

ALCARAZ HEADED FOR GREATNESS

Everything for Zverev was lost in the magical racket of Alcaraz.

What was then initially called a game-ending Alcaraz double fault and a 2-2 deadlock quicky reversed itself and Alcaraz stayed alive by winning the next three points while taking a 3-1 advantage.

Zverev did get back to a 3-2 deficit and had a break point in the sixth game, but that was it for the hopes of Zverev. The last two games went rather easily in favor of Alcaraz to wrap up a 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 victory for Alcaraz.

That moved the Spaniard to a higher level of success on the ATP Tour. He became the youngest man to win Grand Slam titles on all of the different surfaces, clay, grass and hard courts.

Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket appear to be headed for greatness.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Tsitsipas Brothers Hit With Trio Of Fines At French Open

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Stefanos Tsitsipas and his brother Petros have been fined more than 20,000 euros for multiple violations of the coaching rules at this year’s French Open. 

The brothers received a financial penalty during three different matches that they played in. Two of those were in the second and third rounds of the men’s doubles tournament. Furthermore, Stefanos was also penalised during his singles quarter-final match against Carlos Alcaraz, which he lost in straight sets. According to French newspaper L’Equipe, all three of those fines were issued as a result of coaching rules being broken.

Ironically, coaching is allowed during matches at the French Open but certain rules must be followed. ‘Verbal’ coaching can only be issued from the coaches and their team if they are sitting in the designated player’s box. Instructions must be limited to a few words and can only be given if the player is in the same half of the court as their coach. Although non-verbal coaching is allowed regardless of what side the player is on. Finally, players can’t start a conversation with their coach unless it is during a medical break, a bathroom break or when their opponent is changing clothes.

However, the Tsitsipas brothers have been found in violation of these rules, which is likely due to their animated father in the stands who is also their coach. Apostolos Tsitsipas has been given coaching violations in the past at other events, including the 2022 Australian Open. 

The value of the fines are €4,600 and €9,200 for the Tsitsipas brothers in the doubles, as well as an additional €7,400 just for Stefanos in the singles. In total, the value of their fines is €21,200. However, the penalty is unlikely to have an impact on the duo whose combined earnings for playing in this year’s French Open amount to roughly €495,000. 

So far in the tournament, the highest single fine to be issued this year was against Terence Atmane who hit a ball out of frustration that struck a fan in the stands. Atmane, who later apologised for his actions, managed to avoid getting disqualified from the match. Instead, he was fined €23,000. 

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