Australian Open 2013 Boys Final Kyrgios vs Kokkinakis
A four-set win to Nick Kyrgios (AUS) against Benjamin Becker (GER) 6-3 6-7 6-2 7-6.
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Tennis writers Peter Hanlon and Linda Pearce preview Day 3 of the Australian Open with the mercury set to rise to 40 degrees. How will the players cope?
While Lleyton Hewitt laboured in vain on centre court, the Aussie teenagers slated to replace him withstood the microwave conditions, some injury concerns and their tender years to win their first matches at the Australian Open.
Nick Kyrgios and his friend Thanasi Kokkinakis emphatically redeemed the Australian effort on a Tuesday when others were either being swatted like flies – as in James Duckworth v Roger Federer – were shaded in the heat like Hewitt and Storm Sanders (beaten in a tight three-setter by Italian Camila Giorgi), or melting down like Marinko Matosevic.
Kyrgios rallied following a medical timeout for his shoulder and outlasted plucky German veteran Benjamin Becker 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2, 7-6 (7-2), while Kokkinakis likewise recovered from the twin setbacks of losing the second set 6-0 and leg problems that he later said were cramps to overcome Dutchman Igor Sijsling in four sets 7-6 (7-4), 0-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-2.
The teenage pair – described by Davis Cup coach Josh Eagle as the most capable twosome this country has produced in a decade – beat players ranked 81 (Becker) and 73 (Sijsling) in results that suggest that the long dormant men’s division of Australian tennis could be on the turn, and that Bernard Tomic – fortunately – is far from the only hope of the side.
That the emerging teenage pair managed to overcome ailments and that Tomic forfeited his mismatch, invites further harsh comparisons. Kokkinakis will play Tomic’s opponent, world No. 1 Rafael Nadal, on Thursday.
Kyrgios, a Canberra product who won the Australian Open juniors this time last year, showed both his formidable arsenal – particularly a frightening serve – and a willingness to scrap. At various stages, the 18-year-old seemed close to crumbling, under the burdens of the heat and a shoulder that saw him call for the trainer when down a break early in the fourth set. He had missed the lead-in events in Brisbane and Sydney due to shoulder soreness.
Kokkinakis, just 17 and from Adelaide, recovered brilliantly from the second-set rout and, like Kyrgios, showed a fair measure of mettle and self-confidence in the key moments – such as the decisive third-set tie-breaker. Both kids enjoyed their victories on the same showcourt three, with Kokkinakis, who played the late match, completing a lap of the court in which he high-fived the whole front row.
Whereas Kyrgios played before a crowd of 300-400 that had been muted by the intensity of the sun, the numbers swelled somewhat for Kokkinakis – a belated bandwagon materialising as the ferocious sun set.
Kokkinakis’ victory was a case of winning the points that mattered; he won two tie-breakers, broke serve three times from a mere five opportunities, while saving five of the nine break points he faced. If he did not win as many ”free” points on serve as his doubles partner Kyrgios, he fared better in the rallies.
Kyrgios sent down 34 aces and won more than 90 per cent of the points when he landed the first serve – peak velocity of 215km/h. He converted six of his eight break points.
Kyrgios appeared to be both in some pain and at pains to avoid a fifth set, which might have favoured the seasoned Becker – a 178-centimetre veteran clearly not related to booming Boris. The Aussie teenager’s serve had been slowing, along with his legs, but late in the fourth set he resolved to attack and attempt a quick kill. ”I thought it would be smart to get it worked on,” said Kyrgios of his shoulder.
He viewed this victory as more satisfying than his first-round win at the French Open against Radek Stepanek.
The shoulder, he added, should be fine for his second-round encounter with 27th seed Benoit Paire, of France.
Kyrgios was impressive when breaking back at 5-6 in that fourth set and then by routing Becker in the tie-breaker.
Standing 193 centimetres, Kyrgios’ arsenal includes a forehand that can be pretty potent and a two-handed backhand.
It’s unclear how quickly he covers the court, since no one was moving too quickly in mid to late afternoon, but he has the loose limbs of a basketballer. His volley was seldom seen.
The Kyrgios/Kokkinakis combination of Greek heritage, large or very large serves and height has drawn comparisons with Mark Philippoussis, long seen as a great under-achiever, but in view of our struggles to penetrate the top 30, would be celebrated as a success today.
Whether they come up short or surpass Philippoussis, the teenager pair have undoubtedly given Australian tennis a timely fillip.