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A year ago, rising Aussie tennis star Thanasi Kokkinakis had just lost to his good mate Nick Kyrgios in the Australian Open Boys Final.
A year later, he entered the main draw of the Australian open, won his first round and is now the 104th Davis Cup player as he takes on a classy Frenchman tonight in his home town.
Thanasi grew up in Adelaide at Scotch College and after making two junior finals last year he was given a wildcard into the Brisbane International and then the Australian Open.
His first round match was spectacular, as he overcame cramp and nerves to defeat Igor Sijsling in four sets on Show Court 2 at Melbourne Park. On the same day Australia saw the arrival of another young up and comer, Nick Kyrgios as he also made it passed his first round match.
In his second-round loss to Rafael Nadal in Melbourne, he still showed his competitive spirit and confidence to go for his shot and to not be intimidated. The 6-2,6-4,6-2 scoreline was not a real reflection on the intensity Kokkinakis brought to Rod Laver Arena that day.
Kokkinakis is a part of the “Special K’s” and is a young man with a lot of talent on the court. His big serve followed up with his quick forehand, is a good basis to build a strong game around. However, it is his confident that he possesses, like his good mate Nick, which is so impressive to see as a spectator.
Tonight he faces another big challenge and an experience that he will benefit from significantly. Stepping onto the indoor clay court at La Roche sue Yon, he will face a patriotic yet fair French crowd and a top player.
The French may change their team tonight as Australia due to the insignificance of the rubbers. Gasquet, Tsonga or Monfils are the candidates likely to be Kokkinakis’ opponent tonight all having individual strengths and freak like abilities on clay.
The clay surface does not suit the gameplay on Kokkinakis. Thanasi loves to play a flat ball on the serve and the groundstrokes and will look to dictate the points early.
This being said on clay it is a different match. Tonight the movement and both mental and physical strength of Kokkinakis will be tested as the French are incredibly swift around the court and can all play a very high topspin ball.
Pat Rafter may be likely to pick Sydney boy Jordan Thompson in the second of tonights clashes but this information has not been released yet.
Unfortunately for Australia tonights rubbers will not matter, as France have already taken the tie 3-0 and are on the verge of taking the tie 5-0 with two singles matches to come tonight (Kokkinakis and Kyrgios/Hewitt/Thompson).
The challenge is set for the young man, can he make a better fist of it than his teammates?