After years of physical issues, Thanasi Kokkinakis turned a corner in a big way on Saturday at the Miami Open.
The Australian, a qualifier into the main draw, stunned world No.1, top seed and defending champion Roger Federer in the second round.
The 3-6 6-3 7-6(4) win sends Kokkinakis into a third-round meeting with 31st seed Fernando Verdasco.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) March 24, 2018
“I know he’s an unbelievable front runner,” Kokkinakis said. “In the second set I kind of used a couple of his errors, I started getting the rallies a little bit more and dictating with my forehand.
“When I feel like I’m playing on my terms, I don’t think there’s too many people who can go with me. So I just need to play my game, play my aggressive tennis and then I can do some good things.
“I was pretty excited (in the tiebreak) … Up 2-0 I really wanted that third point to go 3-0. And then he came up with some good tennis.
“I don’t know man, I just served well … I felt pretty calm considering how big those moments were.”
Thanasi Kokkinakis (175) becomes the lowest-ranked player to beat a world No. 1 in 15 years since Spanish qualifier Francisco Clavet (178) upset Lleyton Hewitt in the second round here. (h/t/ @ATPMediaInfo) #MiamiOpen
— Blair Henley (@BlairHenley) March 24, 2018
At one set all, Kokkinakis was forced to weather several storms in the decider.
Serving at 2-3, Kokkinakis fended off two break points in a 10-minute game to level scores at 3-3. And he trailed 0-30 when serving at 5-6 before escaping to send the final set to a tiebreak.
A mini-break helped him open a 5-3 lead, and he brought up match point with a big first serve followed by a forehand winner powered into the corner.
Federer’s return into the net on the following point handed Kokkinakis the biggest victory of his career.
Alexander Zverev scored a nail-biting victory over fellow young-gun Daniil Medvedev to lead a troupe of rising stars into the last 32.
Zverev prevailed 6-4 1-6 7-6(5) in two hours and 13 minutes and next takes on David Ferrer, after the former world No.3 beat Evgeny Donskoy for the loss of just four games.
Zverev stands one win from a meeting with Nick Kyrgios, after the 22-year-old beat Dusan Lajovic in just 49 minutes to advance.
Standing between Kyrgios and the last 16 is Italian veteran and 15th seed Fabio Fognini.
Joining Kyrgios and Zverev in the third round was Frances Tiafoe, who got past Kyle Edmund in a third-set tiebreak.
Canadian teen Denis Shapovalov advanced with a 6-1 7-5 victory over 24th seed Damir Dzumhur, while Borna Coric, the No.29 seed, continued his fine form with a three-set win over Leonardo Mayer.
Last week Coric progressed to the Indian Wells semifinals and had Federer on the ropes before going down in three.
Young Russian Karen Khachanov beat Marius Copil in straight sets to move through to a third-round meeting with sixth seed Kevin Anderson, a 6-3 6-3 winner over Nikoloz Basilashvili.
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