Novak Djokovic shows rolls against an opponent who ‘played like a top 10 player’

But the world no. 93’s competitiveness with rising star Sinner bodes well for his longer-term prospects.

“It shows my game isn’t far off, but it wasn’t far off either at the end of last year,” Kokkinakis said.

“He played the big points well. I don’t think I saw a second serve at a break point – it didn’t feel like it anyway – so I know I’m not far off, but I haven’t been far off in a while.

“The next step is to try and get those wins.”

Kokkinakis strives to avoid free fall

Thanasi Kokkinakis will start the second Adelaide International tournament next week, knowing he is at risk of falling down the rankings.

The South Australian favorite had to rue a string of unconverted break points as he exited the opening event in Adelaide 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 against Sinner.

“It’s pretty frustrating. You have to take your chances against guys like that,” said Kokkinakis.

“I feel like I’ve had golden opportunities to get him both times I’ve played him, but it’s an odds game and I thought right through to the tie-break [that] I was a better player in that first set and couldn’t take it.

“Then it’s almost as if he were playing with house money.”

Kokkinakis dampened expectations on the eve of the tournament that he would repeat his hometown exploits from last year when he reached a semi-final before clinching his maiden ATP Tour title next week.

Kokkinakis needs to win a few games to avoid falling down the leaderboard.

Kokkinakis needs to win a few games to avoid falling down the leaderboard.Credit:Getty Images

An ultra-strong field led by 21-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic meant it would always be difficult to make a splash, especially with Sinner waiting in the second round.

Many of the big stars in action at this event won’t be staying next week, but there will still be seven top 30 men’s players.

The 250 ranking points Kokkinakis bagged for last year’s title win will wipe out his 12-month tally over two Mondays, meaning he has a few games to win.

The 26-year-old is guaranteed to be outside the top 100 again on Monday.

“I was aware my ranking might take a hit in the summer and it might not look good on the number next to my name, but I know where my game is and I know what I’m capable of,” said Kokkinakis .

“Last year I peaked very early. I felt like I was struggling to maintain that energy and focus throughout the season and that’s one of my goals for this year.

“Even if my ranking takes a hit; I have an opportunity next week and I have an opportunity at the Aussie Open to try it and see what happens.

“I’ve been here before with a three-digit ranking and I know I can go back there. I have plenty of time for the rest of the year that I haven’t played as much tennis to improve this ranking and then some, so I have to look at the bigger picture and as long as my game is going in the right direction , the leaderboard should follow.”

Kokkinakis failed to convert four break points in games five and seven of the game as he largely controlled the baseline fight, only to drop serve in the next game to go 5-3 behind and then snatched the break straight back.

Sinner also scored at 15-40 on five to all, but made it off with two well-constructed points to open – Kokkinakis was left with just one conversion from seven break points – and started to flourish from there.

The up-and-coming Italian stormed through the tie-break and then lunged for Kokkinakis early in the second set, only to break him in game three, an advantage he retained to the finish line.

“It was a tough match, especially in the beginning with sun and shadow, and there wasn’t much rhythm, but then I think I raised my level, especially in the tie-break, and I’m very happy with my performance,” said Sinner .

“Staying calm at every moment is very important for me and I think the first set was very difficult for me to win. Sometimes I got lucky, especially on the first break point – I hit the net – so sometimes [you need] a bit of luck.”

‘What can I do?’: Unvaccinated Djokovic over US lockdown

Novak Djokovic remains poised to suspend a number of high-profile tournaments in the United States and on Thursday confirmed his stance on vaccination remains unchanged.

Djokovic will be fighting for a 10th Australian Open title this month after being deported last year, but news broke out of the US on Wednesday that the travel ban on unvaccinated non-citizens would last at least until April 10.

Novak Djokovic overcame a slow start in Adelaide on Thursday.

Novak Djokovic overcame a slow start in Adelaide on Thursday.Credit:AP

That would rule him out of five ATP Tour events, most notably the Indian Wells and Miami Masters in March, while it’s still unclear if the former world No. 1 will be able to play at the US Open at the end of August.

“Look, if it’s official, then that’s it. I mean, what can I do? Nothing at all. That’s it. you know my position It is what it is,” Djokovic said after passing Quentin Halys in 64th place 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-5).

Age announced Wednesday night that Djokovic had reached out to Australian star Nick Kyrgios, who is out of action this year with an ankle injury, to play practice sets ahead of the Australian Open.

Kyrgios is also considering the possibility of joining a stellar field of Kooyong Classic including world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, Alex de Minaur, Taylor Fritz and Andy Murray.

At the Australian Open, fans can watch organized training sessions between star players – dubbed ‘perfect training’ – during next week’s qualifying tournament as part of a new revenue stream for the tight-budget event hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“We are talking to the Australian Open about doing something in a week before the tournament starts,” Djokovic said.

“Yes I’ve chatted with Nick and I’d like to play with him and he agreed but he wants shorter sets. Let’s see if it works.

“I feel like most of us need games and practice games and as many points as we can play ahead of the Australian Open.

“I’m looking forward to organizing it. We still don’t have 100 percent confirmation, but I think it’s very likely [it] will happen with Nick, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Djokovic and Kyrgios’ relationship has taken a turn for the better over the past two years after hitting a rock bottom during the 2021 Australian Open when the Canberran called him “a very strange cat” and a “tool” while he was being Behavior in the initial phase criticized the pandemic.

But Kyrgios was arguably the Serbian superstar’s biggest advocate last January, who lashed out at his treatment upon arrival in Australia before being deported.

“I wasn’t, let’s put it this way, his favorite guy for many years. But he was one of the very few who stood by my side last year.’

Novak Djokovic on Nick Kyrgios

“I wasn’t, let’s put it this way, his favorite guy for many years. But he was one of the few who stood by my side last year and I respect and appreciate that,” Djokovic said.

“In those moments you can actually see who is really supporting you and who is by your side and who I think is going with the tide of society and the pressure that the media is putting on you.

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“He gave me my undivided support in those moments when I was really challenged and as an Australian I respected him very much. Since then our relationship has changed [the] better.”

Djokovic’s bid for a second Adelaide title to match the title he won in 2007 advances to the quarters despite a surprising early scare and continued resistance from determined Frenchman Halys.

The nine-time Australian Open winner dropped his serve opener and fell 5-2 before coming back and winning with his third match point in front of another Pro Djokovic crowd.

The Serbian contingent in the stands at The Drive seems to grow every time he plays, and they once again clamored in support of their hero, who hailed Halys’ brave performance.

“That was a great performance from my opponent today. I want to congratulate him on great tennis and a great fight… he undoubtedly played like a top 10 player today,” said Djokovic.

“In terms of my game, I feel good on the pitch. I didn’t have such a good start. I lost my serve early and he served really well – fast, big serves that hit his points really well in the box.

“It’s difficult to play on such a fast pitch. It kinda favors the server. It’s hard to break serve with a big server like him today so two tie breaks was probably the most realistic result of today’s game and I’m just happy to have overcome a tough challenge.”

Djokovic is just one win away from making his contribution to the much-anticipated semi-final against Russian star Daniil Medvedev in what would be a repeat of the 2021 Australian Open and US Open finals.

He must first get past Canada’s Denis Shapovalov, who earned his shot at Djokovic in a 6-4, 6-3 win over Roman Safiullin earlier on Thursday.

Djokovic is unbeaten in seven career fights with Shapovalov and has conceded just two sets, but it should still be a step up for the 21-time Grand Slam champion, who has been solid rather than outstanding in Adelaide so far.

“Denis is one of the most complete players out there,” said Djokovic.

“He has a very dynamic tennis style, a big serve, he comes to the net, he plays comfortably from the back of the court, [he’s a] great athlete, moves fantastic.

“We haven’t played for a while so I’m looking forward to it. Every match is going to be tougher now and I’ll be prepared for that.”

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Ryan Sederquist

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