Boom Australian teenager Thanasi Kokkinakis declared his French Open intentions after wowing Andy Murray in a dazzling centre-court practise session at Roland Garros.
Flying at a career-best ranking after breaking through for his maiden Challenger title last weekend in Bordeaux, Kokkinakis has carried his sizzling claycourt form to Paris and looms as an unseeded danger to avoid at Friday’s draw (7.15pm AEST).
Murray has a perfect 10-from-10 record on dirt this season, claiming the prized scalp of nine-times French Open champion Rafael Nadal en route to back-to-back successes in Munich and Madrid this month.
But the world No.3 and dual grand slam winner was no match for Kokkinakis as friendly banter between the two good mates gave way to Murray’s muttering and frustration in a hearty one-set duel on Thursday.
It was Kokkinakis’s first appearance on Court Philippe Chatrier and he thrived in another big confidence booster ahead of his main-draw debut at the season’s second grand slam starting on Sunday.
“It’s obviously good to hit with a top player who’s playing such great tennis at the moment,” Kokkinakis told AAP.
“I’ve known him for a little bit now so it’s good to have that connection.”
One of only three teenagers in the world’s top 100, Kokkinakis soared to 83rd in the rankings after his victory in the south of France.
“My first Challenger win, it’s a good feeling,” he said.
“It was a strong challenger, too, so it was good to get the win in a strong field. It gave me a lot of confidence.”
After winning seven matches in Bordeaux, Kokkinakis made the wise decision to opt out of this week’s Nice Open – where fellow Australian young guns Bernard Tomic and Nick Kyrgios retired mid-match with illness and injury respectively – to recharge and prepare at Roland Garros.
Now he feels primed for a strong run, fearing no one ahead in the draw.
“I mean, there’s a lot of tough draws you can get, but I’m obviously at my career-high (ranking) now and hopefully I can keep rising from that,” Kokkinakis said.
“You can get anyone here. You can guys in form or guys not in form. It’s just about how you apply yourself for the match and make sure you focus and be 100 per cent focused no matter who you draw.
“Everyone’s got to start in the lower ranks and prove themselves, but I definitely feel like my hitting is higher than 83 (in the world).
“I’ve just got to make sure I put the wins on the board. I know my level’s there so if I keep working hard, I’ll be right.”
Kokkinakis’s optimism capped a promising afternoon for Australia’s leading lights three days out from the tournament.
Former runner-up Samantha Stosur outclassed Croatian-born compatriot Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4 3-6 6-4 to reach her first semi-final of the season at the Strasbourg International, while Kyrgios dismissed concerns he may miss the claycourt major with elbow soreness as “ridiculous”.
And Olivia Rogowska and Anastasia Rodionova each edged to within one win from adding to Australia’s 11-strong singles contingent with impressive second-round qualifying wins.
The sour note was in the Nice ATP event where Croatia’s Borna Coric ended the run of James Duckworth 6-3 7-6 (7-3) in the quarter-finals.