The night session on Friday of the Adelaide International 2 was another magnificent one for the man of the moment, Thanasi Kokkinakis who defeated No.4 seed Marin Cilic 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(10) in an unbelievable semi-final that stretched two hours and 38 minutes.
Kokkinakis has advanced to his second career ATP Tour final and will take on World No.58 Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech in Saturday’s final after he was too good for fellow countryman Corentin Moutet 6-1, 6-3 in the other semi-final on Friday.
With a parochial home crowd behind him, Kokkinakis showed he could be one to watch out for at this year’s Australian Open.
“The crowd support was so good, it was so loud. That’s up there what I felt like when I played Gulbis at AO. Honestly the reason you play. Kind of keeps you motivated to keep playing, keep giving my best effort. But, yeah, I couldn't have asked for anything more,” Kokkinakis said in his post-match press conference.
”To have a great week last week, I said this yesterday, I was tossing up whether it was worth playing this week. As I said, I can't pass up an opportunity to play another tourevent in my hometown.“
Cilic with 20 ATP titles to his name and a career-high ranking of No.3, was always going to be a big challenge for the wildcard and World No. 145 Kokkinakis. In the first meeting between the two, the South Aussie rose to the occasion and took the first set in just 45 minutes. His serve was brilliant again and didn't lose a game on serve in the first set. Kokkinakis went at 71%(17/24) as opposed to Cilic 50%(15/30) for total service points won. With the roar of the crowd deafening, Kokkinakis got off to the perfect start breaking Cilic's serve and taking a 1-0 lead and it was soon 2-0 when Kokkinakis held serve. Cilic had a break point in the fourth game but a brilliant forehand winner by Kokkinakis gave the Croat no chance and he held serve to lead 3-1. Kokkinakis broke again in the seventh game and led 5-2, with the crowd behind him he held his nerve and successfully held serve to take the first set 6-2. The second set was an arm wrestle with both players strong on serve, the turning point coming in the eighth game. The Croatian broke Kokkinakis serve and led 5-3, the first time he'd been broken since losing his semi-final last week against Frenchman Gael Monfils. Cilic held serve and took the second set 6-3. Cilic took the momentum into the final set and got a crucial break in the first game and then held serve to lead 2-0. Kokkinakis bounced back with a love game on serve and it was 2-1. The Aussie had four break points in a tense fourth game. The Croatian No.3 seed got himself out of jail with three brilliant serves, one of them 213km/hr but with the parochial crowd behind him the hometown hero took the break and it was 2-2.
With the games on serve at 3-3, Kokkinakis was down 15-40 when he smacked a brilliant backhand winner past Cilic. This gave him the confidence to hold serve and finished the game with a couple of big aces and Kokkinakis led 4-3. Both players held serve and with the scoreline at 5-4, all the pressure was on the Croatian veteran. Not for the first time tonight, Cilic dug his way out of jail through great serving and it was 5-5. Kokkinakis held serve with a love game and once again all the pressure was on Cilic who was serving to stay in the match down 6-5.
Fittingly, the final set ended in a tie break and it went down to the wire, Kokkanakis got out to a 6-2 lead, but remarkably Cilic fought back to even things up at 6-6.
Kokkinakis almost lifted the roof off the Memorial Drive Centre Court when he saved two match points to finally win the final set tie break 12-10 and the match.
Former World No.7 and 2017 US Open runner up Madison Keys is one win away from her sixth WTA title after she progressed to Saturday’s final with a brilliant comeback win against fellow American and No.3 seed Cori “Coco” Gauff.
In an incredible match that went for two hours and eight minutes, Keys smacked 33 to 17 winners and won 3-6, 6-2, 7-5, setting up a showdown with fellow American Alison Riske in the final on Saturday.
The first set belonged to Gauff. She took it in 34 minutes and whilst both players had six winners each, the big difference was the unforced errors, Keys made 18 as opposed to Gauff’s six.
In the first meeting between the two, Gauff got the early break and led 2-0, Keys had her chances to break back with three break points in the third game, however, Gauff saved them and went out to a 3-0 lead.
Both players held serve in the fourth and fifth game and Gauff led 4-1. It was all Gauff from then on and she went on to win it 6-3 and took all the momentum into the second set.
The second set was turned on its head, with a leg injury hindering Gauff. Keys took full advantage and smacked 15-0 winners and wrapped it up in only 35 minutes.
The turning point came in the fourth game when Keys broke Gauff for the first time in the match to lead 3-1, when she held serve in the fifth game it was Keys who had the match on her terms and led 4-1.
With power serving and incredible groundstrokes she went on to win the set 6-2 and send it to a decider.
The final set lasted 59 minutes and was simply breathtaking, with so many twists and turns and some unbelievable rallies.
With a tense first five games on serve, both players broke back in consecutive games and it was Keys up 4-3 going into the eighth game.
The eighth game was unbelievable, it went for almost 11 minutes and to deuce on six occasions with Gauff eventually holding serve to even things up at 4-4.
The 12th game was another epic, with Gauff serving, and down 6-5 the teenager showed incredible maturity in saving two match points, but Keys went on to win the set and the match to book a spot in Saturday’s final.