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Close but again no cigar for plucky Kokkinakis

Tennis

Thanasi Kokkinakis is ruing another brutal grand slam draw after departing Wimbledon feeling an exasperated sense of a deja vu.

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The South Australian’s 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 loss to former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro was the 21-year-old’s third straight first-round defeat suffered at the hands of an accomplished seed.

“It’s tough. You can only control what you can,” said Australia’s world No.486 after continuing his comeback from 18 months of injury hell with another near miss.

“Again, I don’t think I have played anyone over 30 in the world in my last four slams, outside of 30.

“When your ranking is like 9000 – like it is at the moment – you can’t really argue about it. I have just got to get myself up and get some wins.

“Hopefully I’m seeded, get to that point, firstly breaking 100 again and try to get a seeding so I don’t have to worry about it.”

Chasing his first grand slam victory since beating countryman Bernard Tomic from two sets down at the 2015 French Open, Kokkinakis has now lost consecutive tight battles to Leonardo Mayer, Richard Gasquet, Kei Nishikori and del Potro at the majors.

“Again, had a few looks to win the match. The same thing as last time,” Kokkinakis said.

“Wouldn’t mind playing somebody who is not as good.”

Kokkinakis will continue playing on a protected ranking through the American hardcourt season before he must earn his way into tournaments after the US Open in September.

Success against 2016 Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic at the Queen’s Club last month has at least left Kokkinakis confident that he can fight his way back up the rankings.

“It’s close but it’s frustrating. That’s why the win at Queen’s was such a relief. I know I’m capable of it,” he said.

“It’s just putting it together set after set. I was able to do it there. Wasn’t able to do it here or French Open, but I’m getting closer.”

World No.166 Arina Rodionova saved seven match points to emerge as an unlikely saviour on a day of carnage for Australia at Wimbledon.

In the biggest win of her career, Rodionova clawed her way into the second round with a heart-stopping 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 9-7 win over 16th seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a quarter-finalist last year.

The Melbourne-based, Russian-born 27-year-old held her nerve through a desperate second-set tiebreaker before surviving an equally thrilling third set to post her first top-20 win since 2011.

“It was pretty incredible. I lost count of how many match points I faced,” Rodionova said as she savoured her biggest scalp since beating former world No.15 Kaia Kanepi at Birmingham in 2011.

“Considering that it’s at a grand slam, this is definitely the biggest win of my career.”

Pavlyuchenkova looked to be comfortably progressing towards a clash with Kazakh wildcard Zarina Diyas after breezing through the opening set.

But after holding serve in a mammoth 12th game of the second, Rodionova somehow turned the match around and finally clinched it after two hours and 31 minutes.

An emotional Rodionova burst into tears and embraced sister Anastasia, a former top-60 player, in the crowd.

“I had a top-20 win a few years ago against Kanepi but this one means so much more to me. It’s just great timing,” the 27-year-old said.

Pavlyuchenkova looked crestfallen at the end of the match, and Rodionova believes the lack of expectation worked in her favour as she built on her strong form in qualifying.

The win also ensures the biggest pay day of her career with a cheque of STG57,000 ($A97,000) guaranteed for reaching the second round.

“The pressure was on her and she was the big favourite to win the match,” Rodionova said.

“So there was no pressure on me. I was just determined to enjoy it, play at Wimbledon for the first time and have some fun and I certainly did that.

“I was a really physical match for both of us. I just want to focus on my recovery.

“I have doubles tomorrow first and then I can start thinking about my next opponent.”

Former world No.31 Diyas advanced to the second round with a 6-3 6-4 win over China’s Xinyun Han.

Diyas has never lost to Rodionova in their previous three encounters and beat her twice last month on grass at Manchester and Surbiton.

-AAP

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