Thanasi Kokkinakis made the most of his Abierto Mexicano de Tenis Mifel wild card on Monday and claimed NextGenATP bragging honours in the process when he defeated Frances Tiafoe to reach the second round in Los Cabos. The 21-year-old Australian, on the long road back from a string of injuries, saved six set points to post his first match win on hard courts this season.
Neither player broke serve throughout as Kokkinakis prevailed with a 7-6(3), 7-6(10) upset of the No. 8 seed. In the all-NextGenATP showdown, Kokkinakis saved three of the set points while serving to stay in the second set at 5-6 before fending off a further three in a 22-point tie-break.
“Yeah it was tough. I think it was a very close match. We both had chances to win each sets. I had break points, but in the second set I think he had the better chance,” Kokkinakis said. “He had [set] point on his serve and then I played a very good point so yeah it was really close.”
After claiming the Brisbane International doubles title with countryman Jordan Thompson in January, it proved a stunted return from a tough 12 months for Kokkinakis, in which he contested just one singles match. He subsequently missed 18 weeks of the season with an abdominal strain and posted his first ATP World Tour match win in 21 months at ’s-Hertogenbosch over Mikhail Youzhny.
A win over the 19-year-old Tiafoe was a sure confidence boost. It was the pair’s first meeting.
“Any match for me at the moment after so much time out is very important so to get a win – doesn’t matter if it’s a good match or any ugly match – just to get those wins on the board is big for me,” Kokkinakis said. “I think the more I start playing, the more comfortable I’ll become on court.
“He’s a good player. He’s had a lot more matches than me even though he’s two years younger. I feel younger than him in tennis years.
“I think for me it’s about getting on court. He’s the No. 8 seed, he’s sixty-something in the world, so it was never going to be easy.”
Monday proved a successful outing for the Australians in Mexico as qualifiers Matt Ebden and Akira Santillan also advanced. Ebden took down American Dennis Novikov 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, while NextGenATP Player Santillan thumped Russia’s Konstantin Kravchuk 6-0, 6-1.
American Evan King continued an impressive day for qualifiers when he took down Mexican wild card Manual Sanchez 6-4, 6-4. It was his first ATP World Tour main draw match of the season. Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur ground out a 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3 result over Japan’s Taro Daniel.