'Fought like a warrior' - Tsitsipas survives five-set marathon

·2-min read
Stefanos Tsitsipas hits a backhand during his marathon victory over Thanasi Kokkinakis

World number six Stefanos Tsitsipas said he "fought like a warrior" Thursday after being pushed to a marathon five sets by wildcard Thanasi Kokkinakis at the Australian Open.

The popular Greek star dropped only four games in his first-round match, but faced a far sterner challenge from the 267th-ranked Australian.

He finally came through 6-7 (5/7), 6-1, 6-1, 6-7 (5/7), 6-4 but needed 4hr 32min to do it on a muggy day at Rod Laver Arena.

"I fought like a lion, I fought like a real warrior out there," he said. "It was an amazing ending with lots of emotion and great spirits."

It was Tsitsipas' first five-set win on hard courts and his reward is a third-round meeting with Swede Mikael Ymer, who beat promising Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz.

"I'm happy that I got my first five-set win... more three-set wins in Slams would be nice," he added with a smile.

Tsitsipas went into the match as hot favourite, having demolished Gilles Simon in his opening match and never having lost a Grand Slam match to a player ranked as low as Kokkinakis.

He has a solid record against Australians, with Nick Kyrgios, who was watching in the stadium, the only one to beat him.

But Kokkinakis, who has been plagued by injury and illness during his career, fought hard.

"He's capable of a lot of things," the Greek said of Kokkinakis. "He played phenomenal tennis.

"I just wish him good health and that he can compete an entire year without any pain or anything bothering him."

With the home crowd becoming ever more vociferous in their support, the Australian gave as good as he got in a close first set, with both players trading blows in long rallies and big serves.

Kokkinakis saved two set points at 4-5 and took it to a tiebreaker, where he prevailed on the back of a Tsitsipas double fault.

But the Greek's superior firepower and fitness came to the fore in the second set and by the third, Kokkinakis appeared to be running out of steam, unable to match Tsitsipas' consistency.

He found a second wind, though, in the fourth set and after saving a match point at 4-5 took it to a fifth, buoyed by the energy of the crowd.

However, Tsitsipas' unrelenting return of serve wore his opponent down, and he got a decisive break in fifth game as Kokkinakis tired.

Tsitsipas, into the third round for the third successive year, is looking to better his 2019 effort when he made the semi-finals, beating Roger Federer before losing to Rafael Nadal.

mp/th