Thanasi Kokkinakis has overcome injury, a two-set deficit and three match points to oust seeded Australian countryman Bernard Tomic in an epic second-round French Open clash in Paris.
The tenacious teenager’s thrilling 3-6 3-6 6-3 6-4 8-6 triumph on Thursday catapulted the world No.83 into a grand slam third round for the first time.
The 19-year-old’s reward for his fighting win, after he hurt his hip and stomach in a nasty fourth-set tumble, is a likely centre-court crack at world No.1 and title favourite Novak Djokovic on Saturday.
Kokkinakis and seeded big guns Nick Kyrgios and Samantha Stosur are Australia’s last three survivors in the singles draw at Roland Garros.
Kyrgios faces world No.3 Andy Murray for a spot in the last 16 after being handed a walkover into the last 32 when his scheduled British opponent Kyle Edmund withdrew from the tournament with an abdominal strain.
Stosur, a former runner-up and two-times semi-finalist, takes on defending champion Maria Sharapova on Friday in the first big women’s showdown of the tournament.
Battling an energy-sapping virus, Tomic entered Thursday’s match under a fitness cloud, but he played two superb first sets to look in total command.
Kokkinakis seemed to have wrestled back control until his fall in the ninth game of the fourth set almost cruelled his chances.
Despite serving out the set to tie the match up, Kokkinakis struggled after requiring two medical time-outs and quickly fell behind 5-2 in the deciding set.
He saved his three match points, including two with aces, in the ninth game before Tomic faltered trying to serve out the contest at 5-4.
Kokkinakis, who pulled off a similarly courageous five-set first-round win over world No.11 Ernests Gulbis, broke Tomic again to nudge ahead 7-6 and calmly served out the match after three hours and 22 minutes.
The victory will further boost the South Australian’s ranking after he started the year at 150th in standings, well outside the cut-off for direct entry into the grand slams.