Nick Kyrgios had hailed it a not-to-be-missed “popcorn match” – but when push came to shove in the middle of the night back in Australia, he didn’t even stay up to watch Thanasi Kokkinakis star in his biggest win yet, a 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 over Stan Wawrinka.
“Going to bed, I don’t want to wake up and see Kokki lose another thriller please,” he tweeted, with a gloomy-faced emoji.
Former champion Wawrinka simply refused to lie down in the second-round encounter, saving four match points in another five-set classic. But eventually Kokkinakis subdued the Swiss after four hours 38 minutes and was able to note with a smile about his sleepy friend Kyrgios: “Hopefully he can wake up a bit happier now – I definitely will be.”
“When he was coming back in the fourth set, and the crowd was going nuts, I was, like, ‘oh, god, it’s one of these ones again … oh no, it’s happening again’. The amount of rubbish that goes through your head… I was, like, ‘40-love, I’ve got a bit of a cushion, stay focused’. It went back to deuce. I was, like ‘oh, no’. The crowd was going nuts. ‘I can’t lose another one of these’.”
Yet, perversely, Kokkinakis also recalled: “They’re the fun ones, they’re what you play for. Against legends who make it really tough on you. You can’t count these guys out no matter how old they are. They just play. They get better and better, and you can see why they are multiple grand slam champions.”
So when Wawrinka fought back from 40-0 to save those match points, at least Kokkinakis was ready for the madness with the Swiss happy that the crowd were all on his side, whipped up into a Davis Cup-style frenzy. “It’s always a pure pleasure,” said Wawrinka.
Kokkinakis said it was a “pretty crazing” ending to the match. He reflected on how he had been here eight years ago, a teenager tipped for greatness as he also made the third round. Next up is a formidable Russian foe, Karen Khachanov, the No 11 seed.