Thanasi Kokkinakis is shattered after yet another setback cut short his US Open just as he was set for the sport’s big stage again.
Kokkinakis was scheduled to take on Rafael Nadal in the feature night match on Thursday but pulled out fearing he’d tear a pec muscle for the third time this year if he’d played.
Fellow Australian Nick Kyrgios survived a pre-match blow-out with an umpire to advance to the next round and cruise into the last 32 men’s singles.
The injury-plagued Kokkinakis battled for almost four hours on Tuesday to beat Ilya Ivashka in four sets in what was the 24-year-old’s first main-draw win at a grand slam since the 2015 French Open.
“I’m filthy about it (his withdrawal). Very disappointing. Obviously [it was] such a high from the other night,” 23-year-old Kokkinakis said.
Guess my body isn’t ready for five-set tennis.
Kokkinakis said he woke up sore on Wednesday morning and ran out of time.
“I was hoping it was just the day after I’d struggle, but I woke up today and it wasn’t much better. Went for a warm-up and it still didn’t feel great,” he said.
“I didn’t want to re-tear the same injury and put myself behind a month.
“I think I made the smart call, but I’m pissed off. Maybe I’m just not ready for grand slams yet. It’s a tough pill to swallow.”
Cannot describe how angry and frustrated I am right now. Having to pull out tonight after working so hard to get back to this point😞 I’m going to figure it out at some point and it will all be worth it…. Thankyou to everyone who still supports me through the shit. 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼
— Thanasi Kokkinakis (@TKokkinakis) August 30, 2019
The former Australian Davis Cup hero has endured a cruel run with injury since having shoulder surgery on his right, serving arm at Christmas in 2015.
Since then, Kokkinakis has suffered elbow and knee injuries, lingering osteo pubis, pec issues and torn oblique and abdominal muscles.
“I am p–sed off, and the worst part about it is walking down through the locker room. People see my head down and I haven’t even played the match,” he said.
“I don’t quite know what to do to get over it at the moment.”
But he promised to again bounce back with “baby steps”, having played in tournaments in the past month and more to come at the back end of the year.
“Like Benjamin Button, I am hoping I [age] in reverse. That is what I am hoping for.”
Barty the last hope in womens’ draw
Ashleigh Barty faces her first seeded challenge of the US Open after Greek star Maria Sakkari lived up to growing expectations to book a third-round date with the world No.2.
Enjoying a career-high ranking inside the top 30 after snaring her maiden WTA title in 2019, Sakkari ousted Chinese qualifier Peng Shuai 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-2 to continue her breakout season.
Barty, a second-round winner over American Lauren Davis on Wednesday, is the last Australian woman standing for the sixth straight major following Ajla Tomljanovic’s exit.
Tomljanovic fought hard in searing heat before bowing out 4-6 7-5 6-2 to Estonia’s 21st seed Anett Kontaveit on Thursday.
Barty was looking to raise her game after needing more than two hours to see off the 73rd-ranked Davis and three sets to beat world No.80 Zarina Diyas in her opener.
But having finished second best against Barty twice already this season, the second time as recently as this month in Cincinnati, Sakkari knows she’s in for a fight regardless.
“I said last year in Indian Wells when I beat her, for me she is the best player in the WTA Tour,” Sakkari said.
“That was when she was like 14, 15 in the world. You could see how talented she is, how mentally strong she is and how calm.”
The winner on Friday local time will play either France’s Fiona Ferro or China’s 18th seed Qiang Wang for a place in the quarter-finals, where Serena Williams could be waiting.
Barty has yet to rediscover the golden touch that propelled her to world No.1 during the European clay and hardcourt season.
But the 23-year-old is rising in confidence, after following up a loss to Sofia Kenin in her opening match of the American hardcourt swing with a run to the semi-finals in Cincinnati.
“Obviously the matches that were after – not the semi-final (loss to Svetlana Kuznetsova) but more the matches and the conditions – were about getting used to being in match situations again.
“Because nothing on the practice court can give you that. So we’re really pleased with that.
“Obviously it’s paying dividends so far this week. To be in another third round is really, really positive.”
AUSTRALIANS ON DAY FOUR OF THE US OPEN
Men’s singles, second round
28- Nick Kyrgios bt Antoine Hoang (FRA) 6-4 6-2 6-4
Alex de Minaur bt 31-Cristian Garin 6-3 7-5 6-3
Jordan Thompson lost to 24-Matteo Berrettini (ITA) 7-5 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-1
Alexei Popyrin bt Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) 2-6 7-5 6-3 6-2
Thanasi Kokkinakis lost to 2-Rafael Nadal (ESP) – walkover
Women’s singles, second round
Ajla Tomljanovic lost to 21-Anett Kontaveit (EST) 4-6 7-5 6-2