Sport Tennis Golden day for Aussies at Melbourne Park
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Golden day for Aussies at Melbourne Park

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Thanasi Kokkinakis has seen and raised his Australian Open effort from last year, saving four match points before ousting 11th seed Ernests Gulbis in a five-set epic.

The exciting 18-year-old prevailed 5-7 6-0 1-6 7-6 (7-2) 8-6 on Monday night over Latvia’s world No.13 to make it two second-round appearances in two Opens.

Kokkinakis burst onto the scene a year ago with a four-set first-round triumph over world No.73 Igor Sijsling.

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If his 2014 win was an arrival, his 2015 triumph over the French Open semi-finalist felt like a coming of age.

Kokkinakis, ranked 147 in the world, lived on the edge over the final two sets, fighting off 10 straight break points to pull through after four hours and six minutes to keep his Open dream alive.

The teenager’s memorable win set up an all-Australian second-round clash on Wednesday with Sam Groth.

Groth celebrated his maiden Australian Open win on Monday night after a straight sets victory over Serbian Filip Krajinovic at Hisense Arena.

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Sam Groth, the world’s fastest server, sent down 24 aces.

Groth rated his performance – a 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 victory – a perfect 10, and he didn’t disappoint.

The world’s fastest server sent down 24 aces in the win.

“Thankfully my serve held true and I started to build pressure,” he said.

“I live in Melbourne now and I’ve never had great runs in the past, so thanks for coming out and supporting me.”

He said his spontaneous celebration with the Fanatics was a thank you to Australia’s unofficial sporting cheerleaders, as he took a “selfie” with the supporter group post-win.

Nick Kyrgios overcame a dip in confidence, a lot of nerves and a lack of match fitness to down Federico Delbonis.

Kyrgios was bothered by a back injury and copped a point penalty in an eventful clash with Argentina’s Delbonis, but prevailed 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 at Margaret Court Arena to end day one of the tournament.

The talented Australian teen, who beat Rafael Nadal and reached the quarter-finals on Wimbledon debut last year, next faces 23rd seed Ivo Karlovic.

Earlier, Bernard Tomic sailed into the second round when he defeated German Tobias Kamke 7-5 6-7 (1-7) 6-3 6-2 on Monday.

Returning to Rod Laver Arena for the first time since retiring mid-match against Rafael Nadal in the first round last year, Tomic won back the fans with his dire win.

“It was a very emotional win for me after last year,” Tomic said.

The 22-year-old’s reward is a return clash on Wednesday with 22nd seed Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany.

Meanwhile, Jarmila Gajdosova and Marinko Matosevic are Australian Open hard-luck stories no more after breaking long singles losing streaks in contrasting styles.

Between them the local duo had lost 14 straight matches at the Australian Open before Monday.

Neither made any effort to disguise their relief.

Gajdosova’s 6-3 6-4 victory over Romania’s Alexandra Dulgheru was her first at the Open in 10 successive attempts, while Matosevic came from two sets to one down to outlast Russian qualifier Alexander Kudryavtsev 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 4-6 7-5 6-3 in a match lasting almost three-and-a-half hours.

James Duckworth added to Australia’s success on day one with a hard-fought 6-2 5-7 7-6 (9-7) 3-6 6-2 win over Slovenian Blaz Kavcic.

Marinko Matosevic was beside himself after defeating Alexander Kudryavtsev of Russia. Photo: Getty
Marinko Matosevic was beside himself after defeating Alexander Kudryavtsev of Russia. Photo: Getty

The Bosnian-born Matosevic collapsed backwards onto the court and then roared with delight after snapping a five-match losing run at his home grand slam.

It was only his third victory in 18 grand slam matches spread over six years.

Such was Gajdosova’s relief at finally breaking her Open duck, she told coach Chris Johnstone it felt like she had won the whole tournament, rather than just the first round.

“It’s been such a long time coming,” she said.

“Not to be able to do it in your home grand slam was very devastating for me.

“I was very happy and relieved that I got this monkey off my back.

“I do love playing in Australia and I’ve played well the last couple of weeks.

“I’ve won the mixed doubles here, made semis in doubles, won Hobart, made quarters in Brisbane – so I play well here and I can play well here.

“I’m just very happy that the one tournament in my whole career I couldn’t break, I finally did.

“Whatever is going to happen from now on, I’m just going to enjoy it and play the best I can.”

What happens next is a first clash against world No.3 Simona Halep from Romania, who eased past Italy’s Karin Knapp 6-3 6-2.

Gajdosova brought some encouraging form into the first grand slam event of the year, having advanced to the quarter-finals of last week’s Sydney International before bowing out in three tight sets to two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.

Storm Sanders was the first Australian casualty at the Open, the young wildcard falling 7-5 6-3 to Czech Klara Koukalova.

Wildcard playoff winner Jordan Thompson also fell at the first hurdle, bowing out 6-4 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 to Portugal’s Joao Sousa.

-AAP

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