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De Minaur, Popyrin soldier on but Thanasi’s Wimbledon ends in heartache after untimely injury




Alex de Minaur has hailed the rise of Australian tennis after marching into the third round of Wimbledon alongside Alexei Popyrin, who has scrapped his way to another landmark date with Novak Djokovic.

But the day the sun came out at SW19 was tinged with disappointment for the gold-and-green challenge as Thanasi Kokkinakis limped out of the tournament after a fall following agonising losses for Adam Walton and Daria Saville.

Kokkinakis could have met de Minaur in all-Australian blockbuster third-round on Saturday.

But less than 24 hours after completing his latest epic five-set comeback win over 17th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, the Adelaide marathon man had a recurrence of the knee injury he incurred at Queen’s Club, while duelling French qualifier Lucas Pouille.

Trailing 2-6 7-5 and 4-2, he slipped and twisted his left knee at the back of the court while trying to retrieve a forehand, going down in agony as Pouille ran over to help him. 

After losing the next game, Kokkinakis offered his hand dispiritedly to the former French No.1, a resurgent figure who de Minaur will still fancy ousting in the last-32.

‘Demon’ led the way, overcoming a sticky third set against Spain’s Jaume Munar, a clay-court specialist he beat at the French Open, to win 6-2 6-2 7-5.

But after rushing off to No.1 Court where he ended up having to console girlfriend Katie Boulter following her singles defeat, the leader of the Aussie pack just wanted to salute his colleagues.

“It’s great. It’s uplifting,” said the No.9 seed. “It’s what we’ve always wanted, right? I remember when I started, there was always talk about our lack of players in the top 100 playing the best tournaments in the world.

“It shows the rest of the world, the other nations, we’re ready.”

If de Minaur’s triumph was expected, fellow Sydneysider Popyrin’s victory over 30th seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry was more surprising as the world No.47, twice a set down, outlasted the Argentine 3-6 6-4 4-6 6-4 6-3 in two minutes under four hours.

A win he always felt was in his control set up a third-round rematch with seven-times champion Djokovic, who ended the plucky effort of British world no.277, Jacob Fearnley, 6-3 6-4 5-7 7-5.

The 24-year-old Popyrin was also beaten in four sets by Djokovic in the second round of the Australian Open.

Alex de Minaur. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

“I had my chances in Australia, I felt comfortable out there on Rod Laver with the Aussie crowd behind me, but he’s gonna be a whole different beast at Wimbledon,” said Popyrin.

“I’m gonna expect a full-fit Novak Djokovic, I’m gonna have to bring my A game.”

In the same quarter as de Minaur, the dream scenario is the two Australians meeting in the last-eight.

Earlier, though there had only been heartbreak for Walton.

Fresh from his first grand slam win, he lost his first five-set match 5-7 6-1 6-7 (12-14) 6-1 7-6 (10-8) in four hours eight minutes to Argentine Francisco Comesana, shock conqueror of the self-imploding 6th seed Andrey Rublev in the first round.

“When I came off court I was absolutely shattered, I came so close,” admitted the 25-year-old Queenslander, whose consolation could be to return to the world’s top 100 in his breakthrough season.

Earlier, 30-year-old Saville could only reflect on the win that got away against Ukrainian 18th seed Marta Kostyuk, her 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 capitulation marking the end of the three-pronged Australian women’s challenge.

Serving for the spoils in an error-ridden affair in the second set at 6-5, a 20-minute game featured Saville earning one match point but Kostyuk prevailing on her own eighth break point before winning the tie-break.

‘Dasha’ was on the back foot in the decider but still saved five match points before succumbing after nearly three-and-a-quarter hours.

Australian doubles duo John Peers and Rinky Hijikata are set to go down in tennis annals after beating tearful great Andy Murray on Wimbledon’s Centre Court.

But the pair won’t be considered party poopers after they knocked out Murray and his older brother Jamie 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 in the first round of the men’s doubles, as they then offered the 37-year-old legend a fond tribute amid the emotion-soaked celebrations that followed.

“It is very special for us to come out here and play today. It is nice to get through but I think everyone here just wants to come and support Andy,” Hijikata told the cheering crowd after Thursday’s triumph.

“It was all about Andy and the great champion he is. It was an absolute honour to step on the court with him before he finishes playing.”

There was hardly a dry eye in the house as Murray said on court post-match: “The last few years have been hard for me.

“It is hard because I would love to keep playing, but I can’t. Physically it is too tough now, all of the injuries, they have added up and they haven’t been insignificant.

“I want to play forever, I love the sport and it’s given me so much. It’s taught me loads of lessons over the years I can use for the rest of my life. I don’t want to stop, so it is hard.”

© AAP

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