Kokkinakis blames ‘shambles body’ in departure
THANASI Kokkinakis has complained his "whole body is a shambles" as he bowed out of the Australian Open.
The South Australian was again rocked by right shoulder and calf problems throughout a topsy-turvy first-round loss to Russian Daniil Medvedev 6-2, 6-7 (8-6), 7-6 (10-8), 6-4.
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He was joined by fellow Australian Jordan Thompson has been left to lament a "well below par" start after falling short of Argentinian Nicolas Kicker in a five-set marathon.
Thompson lost the first two sets and found himself 3-1 down in the third only to fight his way back into the match before ultimately losing 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3.
Fellow Sydneysider Alexei Popyrin also suffered a first-round loss, going down to American Tim Smyczek 6-3, 6-7 (14), 6-3, 6-3.
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The Kokkinakis shoulder and calf problems continue a devastating injury run which wiped out Kokkinakis's 2016 season and will again raise fresh questions about his body's ability to handle top-line tennis.
Yet Kokkinakis, 21, fought on bravely in the third set and buoyed hopes of a miracle win when he took a commanding 3-0 lead in the tie-break.
After a poor start in the first set, Kokkinakis again showed the power and potential of his forehand which put Medvedev under serious pressure late in the third set.
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However, the match again swung dramatically in Medvedev's favour when the Russian won six-straight points coming from 0-3 down before eventually taking the tie break 10-8.
The 75-minute third set proved decisive as Medvedev claimed an early break in the fourth and showed considerable focus in the face of a patriotic Melbourne Park crowd.
Kokkinakis's injury problems began to unravel earlier in the third set when the local hope shouted towards his coach's box and complained of shoulder and calf problems.
Kokkinakis received medical treatment three times throughout the third set but Medvedev also had his own troubles with the heat and fatigue and momentarily left the door ajar for the Australian to launch an admirable but unsuccessful comeback.
While Kokkinakis is unlikely to lose any admirers for his determination on Tuesday, his injury issues remain a serious worry as he looks to progress past the first round of a Grand Slam for the first time in almost three years.
The hard-hitting Aussie last made it past the first round of a Grand Slam at the 2015 French Open, and said he came close to retiring since then because of some debilitating shoulder, groin and pectoral problems.
Early in the third set on Channel 7 microphones heard him tell the chair umpire "My whole body is a shambles. I'd like to say it was one thing. "It's the whole thing."
He also smashed his racquet into the court in frustration and received a warning from the chair umpire early in the fourth set as he went down an early break.
It was a tough first-round draw for Kokkinakis given Medvedev, who is considered one of the best young talents on the circuit, won the Sydney International this month and has surged to a No. 53 world ranking. It was his first ATP title.
Kokkinakis was on the back foot from the get-go in the first set yesterday with the Australian losing it in just 27 minutes amid of swath of unforced errors.
A series of costly forehand misses ballooned long over the baseline, while he also faltered at the net at some crucial moments.
Kokkinakis was down a double-break only 16 minutes in and his strong service game also abandoned him early, preventing the Adelaide product from generating much momentum in the opening set.
But he launched a fightback in the second set and unleashed several crushing forehands to push Medvedez into the corners of the court and swing the momentum momentarily his way.
Meanwhile, Thompson's fightback against his Argentinian rival eventually amounted to nothing as he succumbed to Kicker.
"I was well below par the way I played in the first two sets," Thompson said. "It was pretty disappointing and it was extremely frustrating. Even down a break I thought to myself, 'I can't see this getting better'. But I always try to the end and I started to get back into the match so I can be proud of my efforts but it just wasn't good enough."
Frustration sunk in during the fifth set for Thompson, who blew up at the chair umpire after a controversial hawk eye decision went against him.
Holding a current world ranking of 99, Thompson has now made the second round of the Australian Open just once from four attempts.
Fellow Sydneysider Alexei Popyrin also suffered a first-round loss, the 18-year-old coming up short of American Tim Smyczek.
After losing the first set 6-3, Popyrin won a 77-minute second set that went to a tie-breaker but eventually fell 6-3, 6-7 (14), 6-3, 6-3.
Popyrin, who has a current world ranking of 550, was on debut at the Australian Open having secured a wildcard entry to the tournament.