Physically and mentally revitalised, Thanasi Kokkinakis gives himself a shot of upsetting Wimbledon semi-finalist Richard Gasquet on Tuesday to ignite his US Open campaign.
Kokkinakis is back to his fighting weight after a nasty bug attacked his system and shed 4kg from his 196cm frame in the week before Wimbledon.
It was no surprise the 19-year-old fatigued in a demanding 7-6 7-6 6-4 loss to 21st seed Leonardo Mayer at the All England Club.
Now he’s eager to atone for failing to progress beyond the opening round at a grand slam for the first time since debuting at Melbourne Park last year.
“I’m feeling more healthy. I’ve maintained weight, which is ideal,” Kokkinakis said on the eve of his main-draw debut at Flushing Meadows.
“I played the juniors two years ago and played well, made the final.
“I played qualifying last year and didn’t do as well as I liked so it’s going to be different playing the main draw.
“I can’t wait to get out there. I love a good atmosphere when you’re playing tennis. That’s why you play.”
Kokkinakis, the world No.70, is bracing for a tough time against Gasquet, the French 12th seed who eliminated his doubles partner Nick Kyrgios from Wimbledon.
But a proven big-match performer with grand slam and Davis Cup wins over a bunch of higher-ranked rivals, the teenager fancies his chances of claiming another scalp.
“It’s obviously a tough match, but I played him a couple of weeks ago in Cincy so I know what to expect,” Kokkinakis said.
“He’s a quality player, fresh off a semi-final at Wimbledon.
“But I had my chance to win the first set against him. I was up 4-1 serving in the tiebreaker so I know when I play well I can definitely match him and beat these guys.
“So I’ve just got to put it together on the day.”
Like his untimely illness, Kyrgios’s taunt to French Open champion Stan Wawrinka in Montreal that “Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend” also caused the exciting youngster some sleepless nights.
He also had an on-court confrontation with American Ryan Harrison days later as a direct result of Kyrgios’s crude sledge.
But Kokkinakis says he’s moved on.
“I’m past it. All good,” he said.
“I actually played some good tennis after it happened too. I had some good wins, so I’m feeling fine.”
An upset win over Gasquet would put Kokkinakis on the path to a potential third-round showdown with either Lleyton Hewitt or Bernard Tomic, who also play their openers on Tuesday.
Seeded 24th, Tomic is favoured to beat Bosnian Damir Dzumhur to book a second-round meeting with Hewitt, assuming Australia’s former champion and world No.1 can also overcome Kazakh Aleksandr Nedovyesov in a successful start to his Open swansong.
James Duckworth, qualifier John-Patrick Smith and Kyrgios in his bumper clash with third-seeded 2012 champion Andy Murray also feature on day two.
Duckworth plays Korean Hyeon Chung for a likely second-round crack at world No.1 Novak Djokovic, while Smith squares off with veteran Russian Mikhail Youzhny.