It was a triumphant return to the singles court for Ash Barty as she overcame 17-year-old Coco Gauff 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 to kickstart her Adelaide International singles campaign.
Beginning the season as World No. 1 for the third consecutive year, Barty was initially far from her scintillating best and found herself down a set and 4-2, with Gauff on the verge of serving for the match.
But as she so often does, the reigning Wimbledon champion managed to find a way, fighting back to force a decider, and eventually proving too strong for her American counterpart.
Speaking in her post-match interview, Barty seemed pleased with her first singles hit-out since the 2021 US Open.
“I felt like I played a pretty good quality match, considering it was my first in a few months.”
“Coco played great, she forced me to hit a lot of balls tonight and I felt like I got better and better as the match went on. It was nice to come out here and get some court time.”
Barty further revealed how enjoyable it was to be competing at home again in front of a boisterous Aussie crowd.
“It’s felt like an eternity since I’ve been back playing at home. It’s so nice to hear so many kids out here and so many Australian accents because you genuinely miss it when your away.
“We’ve had a big stint away from home this year, so there’s absolutely no place I’d rather be right now than enjoying my time in Adelaide.”
She will now face either 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin or fellow Aussie Ajla Tomjanovic in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Barty will also hit the doubles court tomorrow with partner Storm Sanders, continuing her preparation for a big Australian Open campaign later this month.
In late night action on Memorial Drive’s Centre Court, Thanasi Kokkinakis scored one of the biggest wins of his career, rallying from a set down to overcome Frances Tiafoe 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.
Like Barty earlier in the night, the Australian was down a set and an early break in the second and looked a long way from overcoming his American opponent.
But as Barty did, Kokkinakis managed to level the match at a set a piece, before playing a brilliant deciding set to triumph over the World No. 38.
The 25-year-old revealed his satisfaction with the comeback and victory over his opponent in his post-match interview.
“I’m stoked. Frances came out playing great. I had to raise my level. I had to hang with him. It was looking ugly there for a minute for me. He’s pretty hot and cold and when he’s hot, he’s really tough to play against. I tried to weather the storm as much as I could.”
Kokkinakis, a hometown hero in Adelaide, also thanked the local crowd for their support throughout the match, sharing Barty’s enjoyment of the home environment.
“You guys were great trying to cheer me on. Playing in front of friends and family, playing at home, there’s nothing better to rally like that and comeback from what looked like was going to be an ugly result. I’m just happy.”
Finally putting together consistent tennis, which has now led to consecutive main draw wins at ATP level for the first time since August 2019, the world number 171 is definitely in a position to rise up the rankings in 2022.
Kokkinakis, who feels in the best shape of his career physically, should also now be in line to secure a wildcard from Tennis Australia for the upcoming Australian Open, where he could definitely cause some serious damage.
“It’s all just building blocks to where I want to get to. I’ve unfortunately missed the front nine of my career a little bit, but I’m hoping to finish strong.”
It’s been a difficult road so far, but if Kokkinakis can continue to build on this form, we could be in for one hell of a back nine.