Aussies in Action: Kokkinakis stuns Cilic to make home ATP final; Ebden and Birrell fall at last hurdle

Thanasi Kokkinakis is into the Adelaide International final. Photo: Adelaide International

South Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis has stunned Marin Cilic to reach the second ATP final of his career, with a fairytale home final awaiting at the Adelaide International.

Elsewhere, Matthew Ebden and Kimberly Birrell have missed out on the Australian Open main draw following heartbreaking losses in Melbourne. Also, a pair of Australian men were ousted by a fellow Aussie in the Sydney Tennis Classic.

Adelaide International 2 (ATP)

Thanasi Kokkinakis played Marin Cilic at Memorial Drive on Friday night for a spot in Saturday’s final.

Both players lost in last week’s Adelaide International 1 semi-final and were looking to avenge their individual exits.

Kokkinakis would be playing for a spot in his first ATP final since 2017 at Los Cabos, while veteran Cilic was aiming for his 35th career final.

First set domination

The first meeting between the two players began with a Kokkinakis break of serve, which got the Adelaide crowd on their feet. Amazingly, the Cilic error, which handed Kokkinakis the break, landed inside the court, but was not challenged.

Kokkinakis continually complained to the umpire due to the squeaking of Cilic’s shoes, but it was to no avail. It comes just one night after a chirping crow was putting off the South Australian when on serve.

Both players traded service games, before Kokkinakis saved a break point on his own serve with a blistering forehand winner.

The crowd would rise again as their hometown hero broke Cilic’s serve yet again to take a 5-2 lead.

After 44 minutes, the 25-year-old then held his serve to love to close out a dominant first set in which he lost just seven points on serve.

Kokkinakis was on fire in the first set. Photo: Adelaide International

Cilic silences parochial Adelaide crowd

With both players consistently serving over at speeds over 200km/h, they served out strong opening games in the second set, as the clock ticked past 10:30pm local.

Cilic serves to Kokkinakis at Memorial Drive. Photo: Hannah Molloy

During the first six games of the second set, Cilic dropped just one point and Kokkinakis two, such was the dominance.

The 145th-ranked Kokkinakis had not dropped a service game throughout the entire tournament, but Cilic broke the streak. Shouts of ‘Allez’ from the Croatian echoed through the arena, as the stunned Adelaide crowd remained silent.

Marin Cilic was a force to be reckoned with in the second set. Photo: Adelaide International

Dropping just three points on serve for the entire set, Cilic pushed the match into a decider.

A pin drop could be heard at Memorial Drive, the crowd on edge ahead of the third set.

A top-quality match gets its top-quality ending

The 25-year-old Australian lost concentration again in just the first game of the third set, remaining unhappy with Cilic’s shoes. A double fault would hand the 33-year-old the break and a 1-0 lead.

It would take four break-point opportunities but with an invested crowd pushing him along, Kokkinakis would break back in the fourth game to add to the drama. A roar of ‘come on’ was drowned out as the South Australian crowd got behind their own.

With the score locked at 3-all, Kokkinakis played his way out of a concerning situation with the score at 15-40 on his serve, but his big serve and an incredible down-the-line backhand saved him.

The 2014 US Open champion chose to use most of his allotted 25 seconds for each serve as the match neared it’s crescendo, needing every moment of rest to make the most of his powerful serve and forehand combination.

New balls were called and Kokkinakis raced through a service game to take an assertive 5-4 lead.

Nearing midnight, both players continued to find the line with powerful serves, pushing the top-quality match to where it deserved to be – a deciding tiebreak.

And after two hours and 40 minutes, including a monster 80-minute final set, that was it.

On the comeback trail from years of pain through injury and a rankings slide, South Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis will play in an ATP final in South Australia. Just his second final ever. A dream scenario for the boy from the City of Churches.

Not since the days of Lleyton Hewitt had Memorial Drive seen such an emotional crowd, cheering on one of their own.

The match ended with a score line of 6-2 3-6 7-6(10).

Kokkinakis will play Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech in tomorrow night’s final. A packed house is expected to cheer him on.

Sydney Tennis Classic (ATP)

In the doubles, third seeds John Peers and Serbian partner Filip Polasek played against Australian duo Alexei Popyrin and Matt Reid in a semi-final contest.

The Aussie duo put up a fight early, but Peers and Polasek triumphed, 7-6(2) 6-2. They will play in the Sydney Tennis Classic final tomorrow.

More Tennis News

Australian Open Draw: Barty on collision course with Osaka, every Aussie match-up

Aussies in Action: Wildcards stun top seeds; Kokkinakis’ huge win; Birrell one step away from Open main draw

Barty in hot form as she wins the Adelaide International title

Australian Open qualifying

Matthew Ebden will not play in a ninth Australian Open campaign. The 34-year-old was defeated by Slovakian Norbert Gombos on Friday, 6-7(3) 7-6(5) 7-6(8). The second seed will look to rest before the Australian Open gets underway, with his clash against Ebden lasting three hours and 36 minutes.

Matthew Ebden won’t play in the 2022 Australian Open. Photo: @TheFirstServeAU/Twitter

Kimberly Birrell was sadly bundled out by the United Kingdom’s Harriet Dart, 6-3 6-3. The 11th seed was dominant all over the court, as a brief period of rain delayed proceedings at Melbourne Park.

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