WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina, Aug 24 AAP/AP – Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis has scored one of the biggest wins of his career, beating world No.39 Alexandr Dolgopolov in the opening round of the Winston-Salem Open on Monday.
The 19-year-old endured a two-hour rain delay before beating the Ukrainian 7-6 (7-1) 7-6 (7-5) at the Wake Forest Tennis Centre.
Kokkinakis, the world No.70, and Dolgopolov combined for 32 aces but it was Kokkinakis’ play in the tiebreakers that lifted him to his first career win over the 26-year-old Dolgopolov.
“He was feeling the ball well, hitting it really hard and putting me on my toes,” said Kokkinakis, who will face Russia’s Teymuraz Gabashvili in the second round.
“I just tried to stick with him. Luckily, my serve helped me a lot at the end.
“I was able to play the big points when it mattered.”
While the tiebreakers helped Kokkinakis achieve a morale-boosting win ahead of next week’s US Open at Flushing Meadows, it proved the downfall for compatriot James Duckworth.
The Sydneysider took the first set 6-3 against Frances Tiafoe only to drop the next two sets in tiebreakers, losing four and three in a match that was also interrupted by rain.
In other matches, defending champion Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic opened with a 6-4 7-6 (4) victory over Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis.
The six-foot-five Rosol served 14 aces and took advantage of a break point in the seventh game of the first set to improve to 3-1 all-time against Gulbis.
“It’s not easy to defend the title,” Rosol said. “It was not easy, because two weeks ago I lost to (Gulbis) at Montreal in the second round. So I’m happy to continue winning here. I was trying to concentrate on every point.
“Ernests was starting to serve very well in the second set, so that made things tricky.
“But I was happy to finish it in the tiebreak.”