Thanasi Kokkinakis beats Stan Wawrinka in French Open after Nick Kyrgios reignited feud over sledge

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Thanasi Kokkinakis has roared to the biggest win of his career, battling to an epic, landmark five-set victory over former champion Stan Wawrinka at the French Open.

Kokkinakis had waited for eight long, injury-scarred years to reach the third round of another grand slam after reaching the last-32 at Roland Garros as a teenager and tumbled emotionally into the red clay at finally repeating the dose with his monumental effort on Wednesday.

On a gusty Court Simonne Mathieu, faced by a packed house all cheering for their Swiss favourite, Kokkinakis eventually broke the dogged 2015 champion, winning 3-6 7-5 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 to become the first Australian into the third round this year.

The man from Adelaide went a huge way to exorcising some agonising near-misses this year, headed by his near six-hour loss to Andy Murray at the Australian Open.

He even had to go through the agony of Wawrinka saving four match points from 40-0 down in the final game before sealing the win on serve.

Kokkinakis' remarkable victory saw him make it into the third round of a grand slam tournament for the first time in eight years

Kokkinakis’ remarkable victory saw him make it into the third round of a grand slam tournament for the first time in eight years

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He held his nerve as Wawrinka saved four match points in the final game before going on to seal the most impressive win of his career – and collapse on the court 

‘What a match! I knew Stan’s getting older but the first set-and-a-half he was playing the best tennis he could play. I was nowhere, just tried to hang in there,’ Kokkinakis told the crowd.

‘I lost a match, that match against Murray [at this year’s Australian Open], I didn’t want to do it against another legend.

‘Having 40-0, I was like, ‘oh no’, you can imagine the things coming into my mind. He just never went away – but I just trusted myself, and I’m so happy.’

Nick Kyrgios built the contest up as a real ‘popcorn match’ in a tweet on Tuesday – and he wasn’t wrong as a breathtaking, see-saw four hour and 38-minute contest unfolded.

Kyrgios wrote, ‘This is what we live for…… Stan don’t wanna lose this one,’ in a reference to his infamous sledge against the Swiss in Montreal in 2015, when he kicked off a feud by telling him, ‘Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend. Sorry to tell you that, mate.’ 

Wawrinka blew the Aussie off the court in the first set and Kokkinakis said he 'never went away' during the marathon clash

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Wawrinka blew the Aussie off the court in the first set and Kokkinakis said he ‘never went away’ during the marathon clash

Kokkinakis's best mate Nick Kyrgios (pictured together after their men's doubles win at the 2022 Australian Open) stirred up his feud with Wawrinka ahead of the match

Kokkinakis’s best mate Nick Kyrgios (pictured together after their men’s doubles win at the 2022 Australian Open) stirred up his feud with Wawrinka ahead of the match

Perhaps finding it too stressful to ponder the idea of Kokkinakis suffering another downbeat ending to one of his now-familiar epics, after that five-set heartbreaker against Andy Murray at Melbourne Park, Kyrgios decided to bail out of watching his mate’s nail-biter with Stan Wawrinka at the French Open.

‘Going to bed, I don’t want to wake up and see Kokki lose another thriller please,’ he tweeted, with a gloomy-faced emoji.

It looked as if Kokkinakis might find 38-year-old Wawrinka too hot to handle in the battle between two warriors finding fresh life in their careers after being put through the injury mill.

Wawrinka, who’d come through a thrilling five-set win in his opener against Albert Ramos-Vinolas, strutted into a one-set, 4-2 lead but Kokkinakis’s increased aggression and weight of shot enabled him to take control.

Still, the relentless Wawrinka took the fourth stanza to a tie-break before he cashed in on Kokkinakis playing a shocker, dishing up five straight unforced errors.

The tennis bad boy tweeted 'Stan don't wanna lose this one' in a reference to his infamous sledge against the Swiss in 2015

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The tennis bad boy tweeted ‘Stan don’t wanna lose this one’ in a reference to his infamous sledge against the Swiss in 2015

Kokkinakis rallied again, reeling off the first four games in the decider and, even though the Swiss rallied with a break and then rescued his set points at the death, not even a needless intervention from the umpire, who gave the Aussie a time violation on match point, could stop him.

Kokkinakis will next face an even more difficult outing against 11th seed Karen Khachanov in the third round.

‘When he was coming back in the fourth set, and the crowd was going nuts, I was, like, ‘oh, God, it’s one of these ones again … oh no, it’s happening again’. The amount of rubbish that goes through your head…

 

‘I was, like, ’40-Love, I’ve got a bit of a cushion, stay focused’. It went back to deuce. I was, like ‘oh, no’. The crowd was going nuts. ‘I can’t lose another one of these’.’

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