Thanasi Kokkinakis is one of five Australians through to the final qualifying round at Indian Wells.
Indian Wells, USA, 7 March 2023 | Leigh Rogers
Australian hopes have made a strong start in the Indian Wells qualifying competition.
Thanasi Kokkinakis fired 11 aces and won 90 per cent of first service points in his 7-6(5) 6-3 first-round qualifying victory against Japan’s Yuichi Sugita today at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament.
“(Sugita’s) always a tricky player,” Kokkinakis, who finished the match with 37 winners to Sugita’s 17, told bnpparibasopen.com.
“He keeps the ball low and flat, and it’s hard to generate a lot of pace out here, but I thought my tennis got better as the match went on. I started to find a little bit of rhythm and get loosened up and was able to hit a few winners in second set.”
Alexei Popyrin was equally impressive on serve in his 6-4 7-6(3) first-round qualifying win against American hope Bradley Klahn. The world No.101 hit eight aces and won 88 per cent of first service points.
Aleksandar Vukic eliminated world No.92 Emilio Gomez, scoring a 6-2 2-6 6-2 victory against the fourth-seeded Ecuadorian. It is 26-year-old Vukic’s ninth career top-100 win and first this season.
Rinky Hijikata also advanced to the final qualifying round. The 22-year-old was leading 6-3 4-0 when his Brazilian opponent Felipe Meligeni Alves retired.
However, Chris O’Connell’s campaign ended with a three-set loss to Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo. World No.187 Tabilo recorded a 6-3 5-7 7-5 victory in their first-round qualifying clash.
There was better news for Kimberly Birrell, who scored a 6-2 6-4 win against Brit Jodie Burrage in the women’s qualifying singles competition.
The 24-year-old from the Gold Coast currently sits at a career-high world No.115 and is aiming to qualify at a WTA 1000 tournament for the first time.
Aussies in action – Indian Wells
Men’s qualifying singles, first round
 Alexei Popyrin (AUS) d Bradley Klahn (USA) 6-4 7-6(3)
 Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) d Yuichi Sugita (JPN) 7-6(5) 6-3
 Rinky Hijikata (AUS) d Felipe Meligeni Alves (BRA) 6-3 4-0 ret.
Aleksandar Vukic (AUS) d  Emilio Gomez (ECU) 6-2 2-6 6-2
Alejandro Tabilo (CHI) d  Chris O’Connell (AUS) 6-3 5-7 7-5
Women’s qualifying singles, first round
 Kimberly Birrell (AUS) d Jodie Burrage (GBR) 6-2 6-4
Men’s qualifying singles, final round
 Alexei Popyrin (AUS) v  Taro Daniel (JPN)
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