BNP Paribas Open Day 5 Review Thanasi Kokkinakis Defeats Juan Monaco


BNP Paribas Open

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Thanasi Kokkinakis reached his first career ATP 1000 last sixteen at the BNP Paribas Open Indian Wells by beating Juan Monaco 6-2, 5-7, 7-6 (5). The Tennis Review looks back at a tennis match that had to be won twice but will be replayed over and over. 

That Kokkinakis could beat Monaco was not in doubt, but the manner in which he dominated the first set was surprising.

The world No. 124’s forehand was in great shape from the get-go as a forehand winner earned him a break point in the opening game. The Australian then unleashed a barrage of forehands, pinning Monaco behind the baseline and forcing him into error to grab an early break and a 1-0 lead.

Kokkinakis’ forehand continued to serve him well as he struck a winner to save break point at 15-40 in the next game. The Australian fought back to deuce and went on to win the game with an ace.

Leading 2-0, Kokkinakis then broke again, winning  break point with another barrage of forehands, his weight of shot overwhelming a lamenting Monaco.

At 4-0, Kokkinakis was now relentless and held another break point, but Monaco fought to deuce and Kokkinakis began to overcook his forehand for the first time as Monaco won a ten minute game to get his name on the scoreboard.

Kokkinakis responded by holding for 5-1 and then earned more break points, his forehand once more on top form. Monaco survived, though, for 2-5, but Kokkinakis wasted no time racing into a 40-0 lead as he served for the match and sealed the set on his first set point as he served out wide and hit a forehand winner on the short return.

The set had flown by in 34 minutes with Kokkinakis winning 100% of his first serves and striking ten winners to ten errors.

The second set.

Monaco started the second set off well, hitting a forehand winner of his own to hold for 1-0.  The Argentine managed to stay with Kokkinakis until 2-2 when the Australian held break points once more. Monaco did well to save the first with a backhand down the line winner, and he did well to survive another barrage of forehands and get the ball to the Kokkinakis backhand. That play earned him the short ball, but his forehand into the net undid his good work and Monaco was a set and a break down.

Monaco’s defense had got him back into the match until that point, and it would get him back into it again in the next game. The Argentine held a break point to break back for 3-3 and converted it as Kokkinakis made a forehand error.

Monaco was now level in the second set at 3-3, had the momentum and began to inject more pace into his shots and play more aggressively than usual while the Kokkinakis first serve went a.w.o.l.

Monaco held three break points for 4-3. Kokkinakis found his serve again and saved the first two break points but he could do nothing about the third as Monaco won what may be the shot of the tournament, a tweener lob to lead 4-3.

See Monaco’s shot of the tournament below.

Monaco could not consolidate and went down 5-4 and Kokkinakis served for the match, but the Australian could not do it with Monaco producing his best tennis when down.

Monaco broke Kokkinakis for 5-5, held serve and then break the 18 year old again, the teenager seemingly shell-shocked after watching a match he was dominating with ease turn into a test, his every shot coming back at him, and his best shots breaking down.

Third set.

Kokkinakis was so stunned by being tied at a set all, he took a Medical Time Out, complaining of feeling unwell and having a cold. The trainer could not do anything to help him and Monaco was anything but impressed.

The break did Kokkinakis good, though. He recovered from his second set slip up, and Monaco’s momentum was lost.

At 2-2, Kokkinakis held a break point,  but could not convert, hitting a forehand long, a call he challenged and was denied. Kokkinakis earned another break point immediately and won this one, striking a return into Monaco’s body and getting an error.

Kokkinakis held all the way to 5-3 despite being far from the form he had started the match in and Monaco being at his defensive best, a forehand winner on the run cleaning the line to level at 30-30 in an 13 shot rally a sign of Monaco’s resistance and stamina. Kokkinakis would challenge the call but it was in.

That challenge was Kokkinakis’ last, and neither men had any left, both men and the crowd laughing at this state of affairs.

It looked like it would not matter, though,  at 5-4 when Kokkinakis, who saved break point serving for the match, held match point at 5-4.

The Australian did not go for anything in the rally, but Monaco did and the Argentine hit  a forehand cross court that called in though Kokkinakis and seen it go out, a fact verified by hawk-eye, something that Kokkinakis could fortunately not see.

Now the lack of challenges was anything but a laughing matter. Kokkinakis received no help from the umpire and went on to drop his serve as Monaco hit his ground-strokes with power and depth, moved his rival around to get a short ball and struck a forehand winner mid court for a break point. Kokkinakis did his best to avoid another long rally by hitting a drop shot but he dumped it into the net and found himself at 5-5 in the third set against one of the tour’s most experienced and consistent players when he should have been celebrating his first last sixteen in an ATP 1000.

The final set would be decided on a tiebreaker, a fitting end to such a topsy-turvy match, the announcement of an extra challenge for each player drawing cheers from the crowd.

Monaco handed Kokkinakis an early mini-break as he kept up his aggressive intent, pinning Kokkinakis behind the baseline and stepping into the court, but he could not execute and he hit a forehand cross court wide.

Kokkinakis was now in the lead once more and two big forehands forced a Monaco error and earned him a 2-0 lead. The Australian handed the mini-break back in the next point as Monaco’s back-court consistency outdid him and he hit a backhand into the net.

Kokkinakis got himself back the mini-break immediately as a huge forehand earned an error. Leading 3-2 and serving, the Australian then took to the net, hitting a backhand volley, a backhand overhead volley and then a perfectly executed winning forehand volley to lead 4-2, executing each volley as calmly as if he had just stepped out onto court for some practice and was not in the heat of a nearly three hour battle.

Monaco kept on attacking, carving up the court and moving forward, but an unforced error, a forehand into the net, handed Kokkinakis a 5-2 lead.

Monaco held his serve, a winning volley after a 23 shot rally bring him to 4-5, and the match was on a serving Kokkinakis’ racket. He played it safe on the serve, getting it in short, and then rallied with Monaco, increasing the pace of the rally when he got a forehand, getting the short ball and earning his first match point with a forehand winner.

Monaco saved the first, attacking the Australian’s backhand and then forcing a forehand on the run error. At 6-5, a grimmacing, fragile looking Kokkinakis survived another attack to his backhand as he got the ball back on the stretch. It was a short ball right into the hitting zone of an approaching Monaco, but the Argentine hit the forehand into the net and Kokkinakis was into the last sixteen of an ATP 1000 for the first time.

The 18 year old roared, fell on his back, another huge win toughed out, a match he had had to win twice,  a match any tennis fan would happily watch over and over again.

Commentary by Christian Deverille

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