Adelaide’s own Thanasi Kokkinakis faced world no. 29 and the 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic for a spot in the Adelaide International ATP 250 final.
After a few lean years, Cilic won two ATP titles in 2021 to take his tally to 20.
Kokkinakis was playing to reach just his second ATP final after having lost the 2017 Los Cabos final.
With a big home crowd cheering him on it was the Australian that got an early break in the opening game of the opening set.
The 25-year-old from Adelaide would have to fight off a break point in the fourth game before breaking his opponent for the second time in the seventh game to lead 6-2. He would hold to close out the first set 6-2.
The Croatian fought back in the second set and broke Kokkinakis in the eighth game to lead 5-3. He would then hold to claim the second set 6-3.
It wasn’t looking good for Kokkinakis after he was broken in the opening game of the third set. Cilic consolidated to lead 2-0.
The Australian got things back on track after holding to love in the third game.
The fourth game was a long one with Kokkinakis having two break points at 15-40 before Cilic got back to deuce. After two more break points Kokkinakis was able to break back for 2-2.
Cilic put the pressure on his opponent again in the seventh game when he had two break points. Some Aces helped the Australian escape that situation to lead 4-3.
A series of comfortable service holds followed and the match was sent to a tiebreaker.
Kokkinakis looked to be on his way to a comfortable win in the breaker when he raced to a 6-2 lead. Cilic was not going to give in so easily.
The Croatian held off four match points before finding himself with a match point. Kokkinakis held his nerve after having played tight on the earlier points. The Australian saved match point with some great shot-making.
Another match point was saved, this time the Australian fighting off the second match point for Cilic.
Kokkinakis earned match point no. 5 with an Ace, it was saved. A double fault by Cilic presented Kokkinakis with his sixth match point but again it was saved.
At 11-10 and with his seventh match point Kokkinakis was finally able to win the point and claim a 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(10) victory over his experienced opponent.
Just like last night, there was a huge roar from the boy from Adelaide and from the very supportive crowd.
“It’s been almost five years so I’ll try and enjoy it and soak it all in,” Kokkinakis said.
“I’ll try and mentally and physically prepare as best I can … I’ve just got to back myself.”
“I couldn’t play too much better than I did early,” the Australian said.
“He started to get on top after that and I just had to will myself through.”
“At 6-2, I tightened up like nothing else” Kokkinakis said.
“I thought I could either go into my shell or I could decide not to die wondering.
“I hit some big serves and got through it on adrenaline, plus the crowd was amazing.”
Kokkinakis advanced to the final where he will face France’s Arthur Rinderknech the world no. 58.
“I watched a bit of him in the ATP Cup. He’s got a great serve and he’s had a super week,” said Kokkinakis.
“I’ve just got be ready and make sure I back myself.”
Rinderknech earned his spot in the final with a convincing 6-1, 6-3 win over countryman Corentin Moutet.
The Frenchman will be playing his first final, Kokkinakis his second. It is their first meeting.