Accusations of ‘tanking’ leveled at former world number nine

Local talent Thanasi Kokkinakis had his first night at the Australian Open on Tuesday – and the ease with which he raised eyebrows.

The South Australian will have to return to the Kia Arena on Wednesday to finish the job against Italy’s Fabio Fognini after the match was interrupted by rain, but is not expected to be on the pitch for long.

Fognini didn’t look like he wanted to play as Kokkinakis comfortably made it 6-1, 6-2, 4-2 over the former world number nine.

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“I don’t know how to explain it,” Adam Peacock said of the Nine newcomer as Fognini casually hit the ball long during the third set.

“He spoke for himself.

Co-commentator Roger Rasheed was asking the 35-year-old as he blasted the ball into the net shortly afterwards.

“You want to gauge the form of Thanasi Kokkinakis. Well, he’s hitting the ball nicely from both sides, he’s serving well, he’s got good rhythm, he’s moving nicely. So from his side, his campaign has been very solid,” Rasheed said.

“But his opponent hasn’t tested him yet… and hasn’t put him under any pressure.

“Such shots came out of the Italian’s racket again and again.

The performance Fognini put on was in stark contrast to his usual style.

“The Italian likes to play shots,” Rasheed said.

“He’s got a wild imagination on the court. He’s a shooter. He’s not going to hang around … he generally wants to do something with the ball.”

Fognini showed off his sparkling skills with one stroke early in the third set, winning the exchange 19 minutes in with a brilliant forehand return.

But his reaction was humble.

“He didn’t exactly react to that shot like he just won a car on The Price Is Right,” Peacock joked, prompting laughter from Rasheed.

“I mean he wasn’t exactly jumping for joy. Fabio’s lacking energy at the moment.”

Marc McGowan, a sports reporter from The Age, picked up the word “tanking”.

“Fognini is skating very close to the fuel line,” McGowan wrote on Twitter.

“And I am generous.

Tennis commentator Craig Gabriel also pointed out Fognini’s nonchalance.

“Is Fabio Fognini playing on Thanasi Kokkinakis’ court?” wrote Gabriel on Twitter.

“Someone is there.

“Looks like Fognini but a shadow as Kokkinakis leads 6-1, 6-2.”

Fognini, now ranked 57th in the world, hinted at retirement after losing in the first round to American Jenson Brooksby in Auckland last week.

“New Zealand! Unfortunately it’s time to say goodbye,” Fognini wrote on Instagram.

“Thank you for the warm welcome and the great memories of the last 15 years.”

Fognini won nine ATP titles between 2013 and 2019.

Kokkinakis will meet Andy Murray in the second round of the Australian Open if he wins over Fognini.

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