Stefanos Tsitsipas was forced to fight his way through a five-set marathon against Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis in their Australian Open second-round clash.
The 24-year-old Kokkinakis, who defeated Soon Woo Kwon in straight sets to register his first main draw win in the Australian Open since 2015, ultimately came up just short against the number five seed, who improved as the match progressed.
Tsitsipas, who reached the semi-finals in 2019, is unbeaten in the second round of this tournament and he showed once again why he is considered one of the best young players on tour, regaining his composure after a tricky opening set.
Kokkinakis took a one-set lead after the tie-break after Tsitsipas double-faulted, but the Greek player fought back in the second and broke on his fifth break point in a gruelling second game.
The second set was far more routine for Tsitsipas, who broke the Kokkinakis serve three times as the Australian showed signs of fatigue.
Kokkanakis fought hard to keep himself in contention in the fourth set as Tsitsipas made some rash shot selections and he took it in an enthralling tie-break.
But he could not prevent his higher-ranked opponent from booking a place in the third round as Tsitsipas stormed to victory in the fifth set decider, taking it 6-4 to secure an emotional win.
Tsitsipas paid tribute to his friend Kokkinakis, who celebrated his first Australian Open win in six years on Tuesday after battling injuries and illness.
“Thanasi is a great competitor and a great fighter. As you saw it was very difficult facing him today,” the 22-year-old said on court.
“I just want to go for a nice bath right now, that’s all I’m thinking.”
Coming as it did, a day after Nick Kyrgios sent John Cain Arena into delirium with a thrilling comeback, the Melbourne fans gave the doughty Kokkinakis a warm send-off.
Tsitsipas will play Sweden’s Mikael Ymer in the third round but, for the time being, “just wants to get in an ice bath”.