Thanasi Kokkinakis has overcome a huge scare against world No.37 Sebastian Ofner to progress at the Australian Open in a five-set thriller.
The home hero trailed two sets to one before lighting a fire under himself to win the fourth set in just seven games.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Brave act in match tiebreak sets up epic Kokkinakis win.
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But the final frame went all the way to a match tiebreak where it wasn’t coming easy for either player.
Locked at 7-7, Kokkinakis fired a 199km/h second serve down the T and rushed the net for a touch volley to win the point.
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“He had the guts, he didn’t want to give the opportunity to Sebastian to whack the forehand across court,” Australian doubles great John Alexander said in commentary.
“Calculated risk, phenomenal play. And the drop volley, as pretty as you will ever see.”
Ofner smashed a backhand into the net on the next play to give two match points to Kokkinakis, saving one before the Aussie wrapped up a 7-6 (7-1) 2-6 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 7-6 (10-8) victory in four hours and 20 minutes.
Thanasi Kokkinakis was in disbelief at coming away with the victory. Credit: AAP
“I wish I could do it easier but I can’t. I’ve got the mental focus of a three-year-old,” Kokkinakis said in his on-court interview.
“However I can get it done, you guys (the crowd) are amazing. Without you, no chance I’m winning.”
Desperate to make it further than the second round at his home slam for the first time, Kokkinakis faces a tough task against 13th seed Grigor Dimitrov in his next match.
“Sometimes I struggle for motivation during the year. January at the Aussie Open definitely isn’t one of those times,” the home hero said.
“I had a tough end to last year, tough start to this year. I know it’s the first round but this one meant a lot.”
Kokkinakis said he wanted to banish memories of last year’s five-set defeat to Andy Murray in the second round, which led to a strange post-script while on a night out in Melbourne.
“That one hurt. I had a couple of junkies come up to me in Crown Casino ripping me for that loss,” he said.
“I didn’t enjoy that too much but glad I could make amends and win a five-setter here.”
Kokkinakis let the Murray match slip over the course of five hours and 45 minutes — the second-longest match in Australian Open history.
When asked what was going on inside his head against Ofner, he said: “You don’t wanna know. Battling some serious demons, that’s for sure.”
Kokkinakis has never met Dimitrov on tour but, having once beaten then world No.1 Roger Federer, will not worry about the Bulgarian’s form lines.
“Grigor’s a hell of a player, been doing this for a while now and he is in some great form right now,” Kokkinakis said.
“But yeah, I back myself … I’ve beaten high-ranked players before, I’ve lost to lower-ranked players. It’s a number.
“It’s about coming out on the day and playing my best tennis. Hopefully I can do that.”
– with AAP