In a rematch of their Under 18s final of last month, 17-year-old Nick Kyrgios has once again overcome gallant efforts made by his closely matched opponent and good friend Thanasi Kokkinakis to seal the Australian Open Junior Boys’ Championship 7-6 6-3.
It seemed fitting that the all Australian junior boys’ final should take place on Australia Day as the match got underway in the Rod Laver Arena on Saturday afternoon, with neither one of the young men appearing to be too phased by the commotion of playing on centre court.
Kokkinakis put Kyrgios’ fitness to the test, running him about the court and constantly changing the pace of the ball by throwing unexpected lobs and drop shots at the third seed.
Both Australians posed strong service games, the score reading 4-5 in Kokkinakis’ favour on Kyrgios’ serve, however a double fault under pressure presented the unseeded player with set point.
Kyrgios managed to level the score to deuce, however the game was paused momentarily as Kokkinakis changed his runners after his shoe laces had untimely ripped at such a critical moment in the first set. The third seed continued to reach Kokkinakis’ low balls to hold serve 5-5.
At 6-5 on Kyrgios’ serve, a double fault yielding an uncanny feeling of déjà vu led to Kokkinakis claiming another set point opportunity.
Kyrgios’ big serve saved him once again as he pushed the set into a tie-break.
Despite Kyrgios being off to a promising lead of 4-0, Kokkinakis maintained a calm, mature temperament and fought hard to dictate rallies to pressure the tie-break to 4-5.
Kyrgios, however, went on to successfully serve for the first set 7-6(7-4).
Kyrgios retained his passionate, aggressive play into the second set, establishing the first break of the match and held serve to attain a comfortable lead of 4-2.
Thanasi Kokkinakis displayed commendable courage in maintaining an optimistic attitude throughout the entirety of the match despite ongoing signs of his lower back giving the 16 year-old significant pain.
“I went and got some scans to make sure it wasn’t something serious last night… didn’t have great news with it,” Kokkinakis explained in a post-match interview.
“There were positive scans for stress fractures.
“It hurt when I had to really push off and change direction. When I had to bend my back and push off, that’s when I struggled. But he put me in those positions and was too good.”
Kokkinakis was presented a break opportunity at 4-2, but the third seed yet again delivered a mighty serve at the critical moment to ace his way from deuce, setting himself up to be in a promising position at 5-2.
Kokkinakis did well to hold serve, given his injury concerns, but an empowered Kyrgios was still able to serve his way to seizing the championship 7-6 6-3.
“I’m really excited for the rest of the year,” Kyrgios said after the match.
The future of Australian tennis is looking bright as young rising stars such as Kyrgios, Kokkinakis and Ashleigh Barty continue to prove themselves to be great forces on the Tennis court as they make the transition into the professional circuit.
Originally published at The SportingJournal.