Australian wild card Thanaski Kokkinakis fought his way past Croatian Marin Cilic to set up Adelaide International 2 title decider with Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech on Saturday. Kokkinakis survived a classic battle to defeat Cilic 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (10) and reach his first ATP Tour final since 2017. He had to use seven match points to come out on top after the third set tiebreak. The Australian had made only one ATP Tour semi-final before the start of the season, but he has now made two in as many weeks in Adelaide. Kokkinakis was flawless in the opening set, taking control from the very first point of the match.
Did someone say hometown final?? 🤩@TKokkinakis goes BANG 💥 in an epic three setter against No.4 seed Marin Cilic 6-2 3-6 7-6(10) for a spot in the men’s final 👏#AdelaideTennis pic.twitter.com/D3MGp2Ni4n
— Adelaide International (@AdelaideTennis) January 14, 2022
“You guys are sick! Honestly it was unbelievable. Unbelievable! From the moment I walked out here, before the match had even started, I felt a buzz,” Kokkinakis said. “It was crazy, best atmosphere I’ve played in in some time, maybe the best ever.”
Depit slipping 6/2 advantage in the final set tie-break late Friday evening, the Australian saved two match points to book a place in the final. The opportunity appeared lost when Kokkinakis got tight and let slip his big advantage in the final set tie-break.
But the Australian crushed a backhand up the line at 6/7 and hit an ace at 7/8 to get out of trouble before eventually converting his seventh match point
“I played a great breaker up until 6/2 and then I tightened up like nothing else,” Kokkinakis said. “He got a match point and I was like, ‘I don’t know, I can either go into my shell or I can die wondering’ and I just tried to tee off on a backhand line, pulled it off, hit some big serves and I don’t know, I was just playing on adrenaline. You guys got me through, honestly.”
Kokkinakis grabbed a break in the opening game, before consolidating comfortably to take an early 2-0 lead. He won three points in a row with clean winners to hold serve , before breaking Cilic again in the seventh game to take an unassailable lead.
The 25-year-old held serve to love to claim the set 6-2 in 38 minutes against the former U.S. Open champion. Kokkinakis made just two enforced errors in the opening set while the Croatian made 13.
Cilic raised his level in the second set and won a remarkable 100 percent of points on first serve. As he put the pressure back on the home favourite, the Croatian eventually broke his opponent in the eighth game to level the match.
In the third set, both players traded additional six match points before Cilic found the net and Kokkinakis secured the victory.