Alex de Minaur’s straight-sets loss leaves Thanasi Kokkinakis as last Australian in singles | French Open 2023

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Thanasi Kokkinakis has been left the last Australian standing in the French Open singles after the second-round challenges of his compatriots Alex de Minaur and Max Purcell both wilted in the Paris sunshine.

De Minaur’s hopes of venturing further than ever before at Roland Garros were ruthlessly dismantled by big-hitting Argentinian Tomas Martin Etcheverry, who proved just too strong for the Australian No 1 in his powerhouse 6-3, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 triumph on Thursday.

Then on an adjacent court, injury-hit Purcell, the biggest riser in Australian tennis this year, battled valiantly with blisters to both hands and also on an injured ankle before succumbing to Japanese No 27 seed Yoshihito Nishioka 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4.

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The double blow left Australian hopes of second-week interest all down to Kokkinakis, who was recovering from his epic five-set win over Stan Wawrinka in readiness to face No 11 seed Karen Khachanov in Friday’s third round.

Not for the first time in his battling career, De Minaur found himself faced with an adversary with too much firepower as his ambition to reach the Paris slam third round for the first time in seven attempts foundered on the hottest day of the championship on court 14.

“I gave everything I could and just couldn’t do too much,” was the familiar lament from the Sydneysider who felt the heavier balls in use at Roland Garros worked against him.

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He was constantly scurrying on the back foot against the powerful Etcheverry, who’s one to watch after reaching three clay-court finals – two at tour-level – already this season.

“I was struggling to hurt him at all,” De Minaur said. “He’s got a lot of strength, so was able to kind of muscle the ball around and not make a lot of mistakes. All round, he played a great match.”

The pair hadn’t met since their junior days, since then 23-year-old Etcheverry has sprouted to 1.96 metres. He packed too much of a punch for the slight figure who’s one year his senior, cracking 24 winners and forcing 41 errors from De Minaur.

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After starting brightly, De Minaur had three break points to go up 4-3 but once the Argentine had repelled them, he ran away with the set, and, from then on, put pressure on the Australian with his superior weight of shot.

De Minaur worked wonders to save three set points at 5-6 and break back to take the second stanza into a tiebreak, but too many careless errors – he made 53 unforced mistakes throughout the match – soon left Etcheverry in complete control.

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After two hours 45 minutes when the Australian hit a backhand long, Etcheverry could celebrate reaching the third round of a slam for the first time.

Next door on court 13, De Minaur’s fellow Sydneysider Purcell took the first set against the odds against Nishioka, even though he’d twice had to have treatment to his hands for blisters.

Showing no ill-effects from the ankle injury that was bothering him in his opening-round win over fellow Australian Jordan Thompson, Purcell never stopped fighting, even after Nishioka dominated the second set and then earned the decisive break at 5-5 in the third aided by the Purcell’s double fault.

Even down 3-0 in the fourth set, Purcell kept the Japanese honest, forcing him to battle through some gruelling games before sealing his three-hour six-minute victory with an ace.

“Ideally I’d like to have had a fresh ankle and a fresh hand,” Purcell said. “But I was pretty pumped with how I was playing,”

Purcell moves up to a provisional world No 60 from a ranking of 220 in January.

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