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Special Ks: Kyrgios, Kokkinakis win Australian Open doubles

January 29, 2022 GMT
Nick Kyrgios, right, and Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia celebrate after defeating compatriots Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell in the men's doubles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, in Melbourne, Australia. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
Nick Kyrgios, right, and Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia celebrate after defeating compatriots Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell in the men's doubles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, in Melbourne, Australia. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
Nick Kyrgios, right, and Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia celebrate after defeating compatriots Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell in the men's doubles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, in Melbourne, Australia. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
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Nick Kyrgios, right, and Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia celebrate after defeating compatriots Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell in the men's doubles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, in Melbourne, Australia. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)
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Nick Kyrgios, right, and Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia celebrate after defeating compatriots Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell in the men's doubles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, in Melbourne, Australia. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill)

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis entered on a wild card and were dubbed the Special Ks on their wild ride to the men’s doubles title at the Australian Open.

With a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Matt Ebden and Max Purcell on Saturday, the long-time friends became the first home-grown pairing to win the men’s doubles title here since Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde, aka the Woodies, in 1997.

And this was only their fourth Grand Slam event as a team.

The pair, who won the Wimbledon boys’ doubles title nearly nine years ago, never faced a break point in a dominant performance in a final that started on Rod Laver Arena following Ash Barty’s drought-breaking women’s singles title.

It capped a decent day for the Aussies, with the so-called Special Ks becoming the first all-Australian team to win a Grand Slam men’s doubles title since Woodforde and Woodbridge won their 11th together at Wimbledon in 2000.

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Kyrgios and Kokkinakis conceded only two sets in six matches on a run to the title that included wins over the No. 1 and No. 3 seeded teams.

“What a week. I can honestly say we didn’t expect to come even close to this. This is a crazy cherry on the top,” Kokkinakis said.

Kyrgios added: “I wouldn’t have wanted to do this with anyone else.”

He gave thanks to his support team, also, when he said “I battled COVID a week out from the Open and I wouldn’t be here without you.”

Woodbridge and Woodforde, both working as TV commentators, presented the trophy to the winners.

Kokkinakis, who won his first ATP singles title at Adelaide earlier this month, is still making his way back onto the tour after several seasons interrupted by injuries and illness.

The 26-year-old Kyrgios has a career-high singles ranking of No. 13 and won six ATP titles, all on hard courts, but hasn’t fulfilled the potential he showed by reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon in 2014 and at the Australian Open the following year.

His style of play and attitude on and off-court has divided opinion, too. His first Grand Slam title, albiet in doubles, could be a sign of things to come.

The men’s doubles competition attracted more local attention than usual, with Kyrgios and Kokkinakis packing a smaller, 5,000-seat outside stadium and getting boisterous support in earlier rounds before having to shift into all-ticketed main arena for the semis and the final.

Given the popularity of the Kyrgios-Kokkinakis team, polite applause initially greeted winners from the rackets of Ebden and Purcell. But the less flamboyant pair gradually gained more support from fans who stayed behind to watch after the women’s singles final.

It seemed the opening set was headed for the inevitable tiebreaker with not even a break point until the 11th game on Ebden’s serve.

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Ebden fended off three break points before a dipping Kokkinakis forehand service return forced a backhand volley error for the crucial breakthrough. Kokkinakis followed up by not conceding a point as he served out the set.

The second set followed a similar pattern.

At the insistence of all players a spectator, who had yelled “out” as Purcell served in the ninth game, was removed by security. The three-minute incident only delayed the inevitable as Kyrgios stepped up to clinch victory in the next game.

It was the first all-Australian men’s doubles final at the Australian Open since 1980, when Mark Edmondson and Kim Warwick beat Peter McNamara and Paul McNamee.

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