Kokkinakis Battles Media Spotlight to Qualify in Cincinnati
Adam Addicott, Tennis Atlantic
Proceedings of the 2015 Cincinnati Masters tournament sparked international headlines, but for the wrong reasons.
A heated first round match between Thanasi Kokkinakis and Ryan Harrison overshadowed the entire competition. Leading into the match Kokkinakis was caught up in a media frenzy following Nick Kyrgios unorthodox on court comments In which he said that his teammate ‘banged’ Wawrinka’s girlfriend Donna Vekic. The controversial comment resulted in Kyrgios receiving a $10,000 fine. During his first round match, The Australian accused Harrison of sledging him about the incident and at two separate points the umpire had to step in to stop the match turning into a physical encounter. Harrison was quoted after the match saying “He’s 19. If he wants to get into it, I will bury him. Wawrinka should’ve decked Kyrgios, and I should deck that kid.” (per Ben Rothenberg)
Eventually Kokkinakis won the roller-coaster match 7-5,3-6,7-6(2) to set up a showdown against Marsel İlhan. In the final round the 19-year-old was on his way out of the match as his Tunisian rival won five straight games to open up a 3-0 lead in the final set. He was, however unable to maintain his dominance as Kokkinakis battled back to win 6-4, 2-6,6-4. Following his win, the rising star admitted that the recent incidents has been affecting him.
“Yeah, I didn’t get much sleep last night either. But, luckily enough, I recovered and I’m playing a tournament at the moment, so I’m trying to focus on that and I’m happy I found a way to get the win.” He said.
Top seed Benoit Paire crashed out of the qualification tournament following a shock loss to America’s 13th seed Denis Kudla. The Frenchman recently won his maiden ATP title in Sweden and has beaten Kudla earlier this year at the Monte Carlo Masters. Despite the odds being in Paire’s favour, it was the 22-year-old American that took control of the match as he broke his rivals serve four times to win 6-4,6-4. Out of seven entrants, Kudla in the only American player to successfully qualify for the main draw. Following his exit, Paire expressed his disappointment on his Instagram account. “Bad game today, but I tried until the end…. Training is needed as I prepare for the US Open”.Embed from Getty Images
Alexandr Dolgopolov recovered from his first round exit at last weeks Rogers Cup by beating Santiago Giraldo in the final round. Dolgopolov, who is seeded lower than his Colombian rival, required almost two hours on court during his 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 win. The loss is a bitter disappointment for Giraldo, who recently announced that former world No.2 Alex Corretja has been hired as a consultant to him. The Ukrainian’s best performance so far in 2015 was a the semi-final appearance at the Nottingham Open in June. Dolgopolov has played in the main draw of the Cincinatti Masters on four previous occasions, losing in the first round at all of them.Embed from Getty Images
Alexander Zverev continued his promising start to the US hard-court series with a three set win over big serving Denis Istomin. The German recently stunned world No.16 Kevin Anderson in the second round of the Citi Open where he reached the quarter-final. The impressive run elevated Zverev ten places up the rankings to 86th in the world, 12 places below his career high. During the qualifying tournament in Cincinatti, Zverev upset 7th seed Benjamin Becker in the first round before beating Istomin 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.Embed from Getty Images
Yen-Hsun Lu recovered from a set down to beat former world No.8 Mikhail Youzhny 2-6, 6-2,6-4. Before his final showdown against the Russian, Lu defeated American rising star Stefan Kozlov. During his match against Youzhny, both players encountered problems with their service. In the final set the 32-year-old was broken three times compared to Youzhny who was broken four times. Lu is currently ranked 82nd in the world and has reached the quarterfinals at three ATP events in 2015 (Nottingham, Delray Beach and Chennai).Embed from Getty Images
Wimbledon quarterfinalist, Vasek Popisil, produced a dominating performance after dropping the first set against South Korea’s Hyeon Chung. After dropping the first set in a close tie-break, the Canadian won 12 out of the next 15 games to progress into the main draw with the final score 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-0. Since his magical run at SW19, the Canadian has suffered minor trouble with a bruised wrist, but he has made steady progress on his return to action by reaching the quarter-finals in Atlanta and third round in Washington.Embed from Getty Images
Completing the qualifying line-up is veteran player Nicolas Mahut who defeated American second seed Steve Johnson 6-2,6-4. Leading up to this week the 33-year-old has played in 45 main draw matches at Masters tournaments and currently has a disappointing win-loss of 14-31. The Frenchman has already won two titles this year. He was triumphant at the ATP Saint Brieuc Challenger and in ‘s-Hertogenbosch where he won the title as a qualifier. This is the second time in his career that he has won a ATP title as a qualifier.Embed from Getty Images
Matches featuring qualifiers in the main draw
Benoit Paire received a lucky loser spot into the main draw after Kei Nishikori pulled out due to a hip injury.
(LL) Benoit Paire v Gilles Muller – They have only place each other once before which in the second round of the Metz Open back in 2011. Muller won that match in straight sets. Paire is streaky in his form and Muller being good on hard courts likely gives him an edge.
(Q) Lu Yen-Hsun v David Goffin – The only previous match played was in Washington back in 2013 where Goffin won 6-4,6-4. This will be a match worth watching if you like clean ball striking.
(Q) Alexander Zverev v Borna Coric – Known as the battle of the teenagers, it will be a rematch of the 2013 US Open boy’s semi-final. Coric beat the German in three sets on his way to claiming the title. In the final he beat Thanasi Kokkinakis. This one could go either way, with both in solid form and possessing plenty of talent.
(Q) Nicolas Mahut v (WC) Jared Donaldson – first meeting, a nice chance for the young gun Donaldson to grab another main draw tour win here, Mahut is one of the weakest qualifiers.
(Q) Thanasi Kokkinakis v Fabio Fognini –first meeting, Fognini has yet to win a hard court match in 2015, Kokkinakis is likely stressed but I still him winning this one.
(Q) Vasek Pospisil v (Q) Denis Kudla – Pospisil has beaten Kudla twice. In 2011 Kudla retired in the second set at the Tiburon Challenger and in 2013 the Canadian won in three sets at Newport. This should be a big hitters battle, Kudla’s career best form in recent weeks should give him an edge.