Aussie star Thanasi Kokkinakis has left tennis fans in awe after an incredible performance in his second round Australian Open clash against No.5 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The injury-plagued Australian may not have won the contest, but he went down swinging in what was the longest match so far at the 2021 grand slam tournament.
'INFURIATING': Kokkinakis fumes over rare mid-match incident
'ENORMOUS CONCERN': Fans stunned by 'worrying' Barty collapse
Long overdue a change of luck on the injury front, Kokkinakis looked right at home back on centre stage as he traded blows with the 2019 Open semi-finalist before bowing out 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-1 6-7 (5-7) 6-4.
The unsponsored Kokkinakis - who’s famously been rocking $6 K-Mart gear at this year’s grand slam - was a massive underdog going into the contest.
It was just the Aussie’s second match since 2019 but incredibly, he showed no signs of rust or fatigue against one of the brightest young stars in the sport.
Greek superstar Tsitsipas did not drop a service game in a marathon encounter which lasted four hours and 32 minutes in front of an engrossed crowd at Rod Laver Arena.
Despite his opponent's impregnable serve and Kokkinakis' unfortunate with injuries, the popular 24-year-old was still able to make the match go the distance by stepping up in the two tiebreaks.
He also saved a match point in the 10th game of the fourth set.
Kokkinakis has battled a plethora of serious injuries in recent years, which has seen his world ranking plummet to No.267.
But in front of a raucous home crowd inside Rod Laver Arena on Thursday evening, the plucky Aussie gave the tennis world a taste of what they'd been missing.
The local hope refused to take a backward step and came back at Tsitsipas time and time again, when it looked as if his opponent was edging towards victory.
Kokkinakis could easily have unravelled when the umpire made him replay a point he would have won in the third set, when a tennis ball slipped out of his pocket during a rally.
Tsitsipas had already hit his return - which was sailing long - when the ball spilled out of the Aussie's pocket, leaving Kokkinakis fuming.
The Aussie dropped that set but managed to put his frustrations to one side as he claimed the next set to force a decider, before falling agonisingly short.
Local hope leaves fans in a frenzy
Kokkinakis was given a standing ovation as he left the court, with his opponent joining fans in heaping praise on the 24-year-old.
A round of applause from everyone, including opponent Tsitsipas and friend Kyrgios in his box, as Kokkinakis walks back.
A solid comeback from a long layoff for him, even in defeat.
📽️ Australian Open pic.twitter.com/XWQrfsOIky
— The Field (@thefield_in) February 11, 2021
Great match, Kokkinakis! The titles will come! You deserve it, mate! Great tennis level!
— Marcela Linhares (@ma__linhares) February 11, 2021
Tsitispas on Kokkinakis: He wasn’t able to play all these years due to injuries that he had, and it was a big shame because we were missing someone who was not there with us on the tour, but I’m very happy to see him back competing at a very high level
— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) February 11, 2021
— robert. (@FierceRobert) February 11, 2021
— Ryan (@Ryanroxs01) February 11, 2021
There were significant stretches of time during the Kokkinakis-Tsitsipas match where the commentators said nothing. They let the tennis speak for itself and it was glorious
— Robyn (@flutter_rob) February 11, 2021
What a brilliant match of Tennis! 🇬🇷🇦🇺 Bravo to Tsitsipas on a fantastic win and hopefully progresses further on. Also, well done to Kokkinakis who fought hard but so unlucky at the end. Hopefully he can stay injury-free and build from here, onwards and upwards! #AusOpen
— Michael (@Michael_Vissini) February 11, 2021
Congrats Tsitsipas. What an epic battle 👏👏. Incredible performance by Kokkinakis despite the long break due to injury. https://t.co/0rQfKL8NDY
— Ashree Aedan Azhar (@ashree78) February 11, 2021
Kokkinakis missed the 2020 Open due to glandular fever and then chose not to travel overseas to play last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But when fit, the South Australian remains a formidable foe, as he proved when beating then-world No.1 Roger Federer three years ago at the Miami Open.
That talent was on show time and again on Thursday night in a match watched by his close friend and doubles partner Nick Kyrgios.
The pair were first dubbed the Special Ks back in 2013 when they squared off in the Australian Open junior final and appeared to have the tennis world at their feet.
Before Thursday evening, the previous time Kokkinakis had played on Rod Laver Arena at the Australian Open was in 2014 when he lost in straight sets to Rafael Nadal at the age of 17.
Tsitsipas will take on Mikael Ymer in the third round on Saturday after the Swede ousted Spanish teen sensation Carlos Alcaraz 2-6 6-4 6-4 7-6 (7-5).
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.