Miami | Counting the impact of Federer’s loss to Kokkinakis
Thanasi Kokkinakis pulled off the biggest upset of his career when he up-ended Roger Federer’s title quest in the Miami Open second round, 3-6 6-3 7-6(4), in Key Biscayne.
The Australian World No 175, who was given a wildcard into the Miami qualifying rounds, is on the comeback trail from a series of injuries that have hampered him over the past two seasons and, at 21, he is still looking to fulfil his potential after putting his physical issues behind him.
He was a bit more relaxed. I was in search mode the whole match. I never got going Roger Federer
The Swiss’ defeat at the hands of Kokkinakis resulted in Federer losing the World No 1 ranking the following week, replaced at the top by the currently injured Rafael Nadal.
Federer needed to at least reach the quarter-finals in Miami to retain his position at the summit but instead faltered in his opener in Key Biscayne.
“I deserve it after this match. That’s how I feel. Just so bad,” said a disappointed Federer on losing the top spot.
It was Federer’s second consecutive defeat, having fallen to Juan Martin Del Potro in the Indian Wells final the weekend before.
This is the first time Federer has lost back-to-back matches since 2014, when he faltered in the Monte Carlo final to Stan Wawrinka, then lost his Rome opener to Jeremy Chardy.
Kokkinakis is the lowest-ranked player to defeat a World No 1 since a 178th-ranked Francisco Clavet upset a top-ranked Lleyton Hewitt in Miami in 2003.
Federer was a quarter-finalist in that same Miami tournament, in 2003, when Kokkinakis was just six years old.
Incredibly, this is just the second time Federer has lost to someone ranked as low as the 175th-ranked Kokkinakis in 18 seasons.
The only other time within that period was to a 302nd-ranked Tommy Haas in the Stuttgart second round last year.
For Kokkinakis, this is the first top-five victory of his career, and the second against a top-10 opponent, having defeated a sixth-ranked Milos Raonic at the Queen’s Club last year.
Oddly, Federer actually won two more points than Kokkinakis in the match, 98 points compared to Kokkinakis’ 96.
The top seed also had a positive winners-unforced errors differential of 39-31 while Kokkinakis hit 25 winners against 27 unforced errors.
“He was just a bit better than me today, you know. What exactly that was, I think you probably have to break it down to the key moments. He was a bit more relaxed. I was in search mode the whole match. I never got going,” said Federer.
Kokkinakis didn’t serve particularly well, landing just 52 per cent of his first serves in, but he hit 12 forehand winners and 10 service winners, including 7 aces.
“Winning a lot of baseline rallies and dictating with my forehand, I think when I’m playing like that off the ground, I can be very dangerous,” said Kokkinakis after his win.
The young Aussie was also a successful 9/11 at the net, while Federer was 26/36.
Kokkinakis has spent time practicing with Federer in Dubai, last year and in 2014, and that probably helped him on court against him in Miami.
He also does not appear intimidated by the 20-time Grand Slam champion, and was bold when he needed it the most.
“Yeah, I mean, everyone is human. He just plays tennis a lot better than a lot of people,” said Kokkinakis of Federer.
This is the first time Kokkinakis has posted back-to-back main draw wins at an ATP Masters 1000 event since Indian Wells 2015, when he made the third round before losing to Bernard Tomic.
It was also just his second-ever main draw victory in Miami, while Federer is a three-time champion at the tournament, having won in 2005, 2006 and 2017.
Federer remains a stunning 69-7 win-loss since he returned from a six-month injury break in January 2017 and is 17-2 this season.
His two defeats in the last seven days were 7-6 in the third (against Del Potro and Kokkinakis) and he is likely to get back the top spot during the clay season, even without playing, since Nadal is defending 4,680 points on the red dirt and is still recovering from his psoas, a deep-seated core muscle connecting the lumbar vertebrae to the femur, issue.