Thanasi Kokkinakis in major Aussie boost ahead of French Open

Thanasi Kokkinakis is the latest addition to an impressive Aussie contingent for the French Open.

Thanasi Kokkinakis pumps his fist.
Thanasi Kokkinakis has been handed a wildcard entry for the French Open, as has fellow Aussie Kimberly Birrell. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

Thanasi Kokkinakis and Kimberly Birrell have earned wildcards to the French Open in a major boost to Aussie hopes, with Nick Kyrgios increasingly unlikely to make his return at Roland Garros. The inclusion of Kokkinakis is a major boost to the 27-year-old's hopes of surpassing his career-best world ranking of No.69 following a sensational start to his season earlier this year.

Birrell's inclusion was a welcome one for Australian fans, with the World No.111 likely to be the only Australian woman in the draw - save for a miraculous recovery from respective knee injuries to Ajla Tomljanovic and Daria Saville. Kokkinakis on the other hand, joins a handy Australian contingent including the likes of Alex de Minaur, Jason Kubler, Alexei Popyrin, Chris O’Connell, Jordan Thompson and Max Purcell.

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However the major news is that Kyrgios remains some time away from getting back on the court, following knee surgery which ruled him out of the Australian Open earlier this year. It was a devastating blow for Kyrgios, who headed into the grand slam on the back of a Wimbledon final appearance as well as a strong showing at the US Open.

Kyrgios' manager Daniel Horsfall told The Age that it was more than likely the 28-year-old would miss the French Open, with a comeback ahead of Wimbledon potentially on the agenda. Kyrgios currently sits 26th in the ATP rankings.

“It’s not looking likely,” Horsfall said. “We are trying everything we can to have Nick ready on court as soon as possible.”

While the news wasn't so great for Kyrgios, for Birrell the French Open wildcard marks an important career milestone - her first grand slam appearance outside of Australia. “I’m so excited to be playing main draw of Roland Garros this year,” Birrell said.

“It’s an honour to receive the wildcard, and I can’t wait to be out there competing and playing my heart out on one of the world’s biggest stages. I’m proud of the hard work I’ve put in and the progress I’ve made, especially over the last few months, and I’m feeling confident that I can produce my best tennis against the best players in the world.”

Thanasi Kokkinakis earns crucial wildcard for French Open

Kokkinakis was equally thrilled to earn a Roland Garros wildcard, having enjoyed a purple patch of form to begin 2023. His best result at the French Open came on debut, when he made the round of 32 in 2015.

Success on the Paris clay has eluded him since, but winning the ATP Challenger title in Bahrain, combined with a second-round appearance at the Australian Open and semi-final appearance at the preceeding Adelaide International 2, have left Kokkinakis bullish about his prospects.

“It feels great to be back on the clay. I feel like I’m playing well at the moment, and have some great memories playing at the French,” Kokkinakis said.

“I really appreciate getting the wildcard, and can’t wait to compete in Paris again. I’ve had a few solid wins on the clay recently, so I hope I can build on that momentum and get some good results.”

Nick Kyrgios speaks at a press conference.
Nick Kyrgios looks set to miss the French Open as he continues to recover from knee surgery earlier in 2023. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

Kyrgios still hasn't officially been ruled out of the French Open, but appears destined to remain sidelined for the time being as he continues to regain fitness after the surgery earlier this year. Wimbledon looms large as the next grand slam on the calendar after Roland Garros, also on Kyrgios' favoured grasscourts.

Despite not having played tennis this year, Kyrgios still remains at World No.26 due to a stellar 2022 season. This means he would be seeded for the French Open and wouldn't play a higher ranked rival until the round of 32.

While Kyrgios hasn't confirmed his current timeline on his return, the Australian did announce he would play in the 2023 edition of the Laver Cup. The Aussie star will once again team up with Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada, as well as American players Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe.

For Team Europe, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev have also confirmed their participation. Team Europe had Federer, Rafa Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray at their disposal last year due to the fact Federer was playing the final event of his storied career.

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