Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Kokkinakis continues comeback after beating Federer

Thanasi Kokkinakis called himself "an idiot" for lifting weights to look better.
He hurt his shoulder and needed surgery. Photo by Paul Bauman
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   APTOS, Calif. -- Beating Roger Federer is a pretty good indication that you're back from injuries.
   Thanasi Kokkinakis stunned Federer 7-6 in the third set in the second round at Miami in March as a qualifier.
   "It was a bit of a reward for all the setbacks and hard work I've had, so hopefully I can get a few more of those," Kokkinakis, seeded fourth in the $100,000 Nordic Nationals Challenger, said after overpowering fellow Australian Max Purcell 6-2, 6-2 in 56 minutes today in the first round at the Seascape Sports Club.
   As usual, though, Kokkinakis' euphoria didn't last long. 
   In his next tournament, the Monte-Carlo Masters in April, Kokkinakis chased a deep ball from Russian Karen Khachanov and stumbled on a sponsor sign. Kokkinakis completed the match, losing 7-5, 6-4, but sat out more than a month with a small fracture in his left kneecap and a deep bone bruise.
Illya Marchenko, a former top-50 player from Ukraine, fell
to 0-8 since returning in May from shoulder surgery.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   It was the latest in a long line of injuries for Kokkinakis over the past 2 1/2 years, causing him to consider retirement. Name a part of the anatomy, and he likely has had a problem there: shoulder, groin, chest, abdomen, elbow and ankle.
   Kokkinakis' right shoulder injury was the most serious. He had surgery in December 2015 and played only one match in 2016. Other injuries limited him to seven tournaments last year, from May through August.
   "It's been pretty s--- -- I'm not going to lie," said the 22-year-old Kokkinakis, a 6-foot-4 (1.93-meter) right-hander. "I've hated it. But that's a part of sport. Some people get more (injuries) than others, but it's just something you have to try to deal with. I'm on the comeback trail now, and I'm trying to get a few matches. That's why I'm trying to play a few Challengers. Hopefully, I can do well and get my ranking back up where it should be."
   Kokkinakis has tumbled from a career-high No. 69 at age 19 to No. 268. He plunged 104 places on Monday after losing to U.S. prospect Taylor Fritz 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5) in the first round in Los Cabos last week. Kokkinakis reached his first ATP final there last year, losing to San Francisco native Sam Querrey.
   Kokkinakis blames himself for his shoulder injury.
   "I'm an idiot," Kokkinakis told 20FOUR, a sports social media site. "Looking back, it was probably my biggest regret. The back end of 2015, I started lifting weights (because) I heard Nike was bringing out sleeveless tops. So I was like, 'All right, I've got to bulk up a little bit.' Terrible idea. Never do bench press. And then yeah, my shoulder's screwed.
   "I remember I came back home -- I was in a taxi -- and I went to hand the driver a credit card, and I couldn't lift my arm above here. I had a couple of cortisones. I was like, 'No, I'm screwed.'
   "So I knew I was going to have surgery, which was pretty shattering."
Liam Broady, last year's runner-up in Aptos as a qual-
ifier, snapped his losing streak at nine matches.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Kokkinakis' surgeon told him he could start hitting in three to four months, news.com.au reported. But after completing a 12-week rehabilitation program, Kokkinakis learned otherwise.
   "I picked up a racket, hit a serve, and it felt like my shoulder just disclocated again," he said. "I was like, 'Oh, I can't handle this.' I piffed (threw) my racket over to the other side. I smashed it. I was crying."
   Goodbye 2016 French Open and Wimbledon. While Kokkinakis was preparing for the U.S. Open, misfortune struck again.
   "I hit a high forehand, and I tear my pec," he said. "And I was like, 'Oh man, I'm so over this.' "
   Illya Marchenko, 30, is trying to rebound from his own shoulder operation. The former top-50 player from Ukraine lost to seventh-seeded Jay Clarke of Great Britain 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 today to fall to 0-8 since returning in May.
    "My confidence is not there," sighed Marchenko, who has plunged from a career-high No. 49 in 2016 to No. 337. "During the important points, I'm shaking all the time. It's a long process."
   Clarke, who won his first Challenger title two weeks ago in Binghamton, N.Y., will meet countryman Liam Broady on Thursday. Broady, last year's runner-up in Aptos as a qualifier, ended his losing streak at nine matches with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Marc Polmans of Australia.
Lloyd Harris, who won his first Challenger title
last week in Lexington, Ky., needed only 59 min-
utes to beat No. 3 seed Quentin Halys. Photo by
Paul Bauman  
   Two seeds lost today, both in less than an hour.
   No. 3 Quentin Halys of France fell to Lloyd Harris, a 21-year-old South African who won his first Challenger title last week in Lexington, Ky., 6-4, 6-2 in 59 minutes. Halys reached the final of the $100,000 Fairfield Challenger in Northern California in 2016.
   Also, No. 5 Kevin King of Atlanta bowed out to qualifier Aleksandar Vukic of Australia 6-1, 6-3 in 55 minutes.
   In the featured night match, top-seeded Thomas Fabbiano of Italy topped promising Miomar Kecmanovic, an 18-year-old Serb based in Bradenton, Fla., 6-4, 7-6 (0).
   Kecmanovic, the No. 1 junior in the world in 2016, reached the final of the $100,000 San Francisco Challenger indoors in February. Aptos, situated on the Pacific Ocean, is 82 miles (132 kilometers) south of San Francisco.
   Fabbiano, only 5-foot-8 (1.73 meters) and 152 pounds (69 kilograms), advanced to the third round at Wimbledon as a qualifier last month and at last year's U.S. Open. He will face countryman Stefano Napolitano, the Lexington runner-up who defeated 24-year-old San Jose product Dennis Novikov 6-4, 6-3.
   Here are the updated Aptos singles and doubles draws and Wednesday's schedule. Live streaming is available.

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