Thanasi Kokkinakis' sad admission after brutal Aussie tennis development at French Open

Kokkinakis progressed in Paris at the expense of his compatriot and mate.

Aussie tennis star Thanasi Kokkinakis says it was tough playing his compatriot and good mate Alexei Popyrin and seeing him shattered after a dramatic loss at the French Open. Kokkinakis joined Alex De Minaur in the second round at Roland Garros after storming home to claim a marathon 4-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-3 5-7 6-3 win in close to four-and-a-half hours, having resigned himself to defeat at one stage against his friend.

The day match in Paris was already delayed but ended up lasting so long that it finished at 11.37pm in the French capital on Tuesday, well after the night session had gotten underway. Kokkinakis joked that the nailbiting first round rollercoaster had taken years off his life but said it was even more brutal for his fellow Aussie.

Pictured right to left, Alexei Popyrin and fellow Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis at the French Open.
Alexei Popyrin was shattered after his dramatic five-set defeat to fellow Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis at the French Open. Pic: Getty

Popyrin was in a position to win the five-set epic on several occasions but was left dejected after the match and described it as "one of my hardest losses to take." And Kokkinakis admitted that despite sealing a miraculous victory and sealing his place in the second round - where he'll take on Italian clay-courter Giulio Zeppieri - he felt more than a tinge of sadness for his vanquished friend.

"It's definitely not easy playing a good mate and I thought Alexei played a hell of a match as well. He made me lift my level and I just had to stay with it," Kokkinakis said after the match. And the Aussie says he fully understands why Popyrin was so shattered afterwards and revealed there was not much he could say to his compatriot in that moment.

"When you lose like that, I don't think you want to hear too much at the net. I just said 'tough one, hell of a battle' and he said 'good luck'. It's hard, I'm sure we'll talk about at some point down the track." For Kokkinakis, it continued his history of being involved in grand slam epics, with a five-set win over Bernard Tomic in Paris and an epic victory over former champion Stan Wawrinka last year at Roland Garros.

Kokkinakis has also lost some heartbreakers too, such as his gut-wrenching five-hour and 45 minute defeat to Andy Murray at the Australian Open last year. And the 28-year-old said there were plenty of times during the match against Popyrin that he thought it was going to go the same way.

"I came from a set down in a very topsy-turvy match, started to get on top of it in the third, then dropped my level a bit as he raised his in the fourth - and then it's just a dogfight," Kokkinakis added. "The things that you go through your mind is insane. I accepted defeat at some point, I was like, 'oh well I'm gonna lose this one'.

"I had three set points in the second set, and all of a sudden he's got a set point and I'm like, 'here we go two sets to love', it's looking unlikely now. And then I win the third and I'm like, 'I'm on here' but I lose a fourth and I go 'well, here we go again'. I'm down a break in the fifth and you think 'oh my god' it's gonna be a tough night. And then you've just got to try and keep the faith amid this internal dialogue that you're battling with yourself."

Seen here, Thanasi Kokkinakis at the French Open in 2024.
Thanasi Kokkinakis booked his spot in the second round of the French Open after a marathon all-Australian first round match. Pic: Getty

Kokkinakis joined de Minaur as the only Aussies through to the second round at Roland Garros after serving up a brutal dose of revenge to Alex Michelsen. The American teen beat de Minaur at Los Cabos earlier this year but was reduced to a tantrum-throwing mess as the Aussie crushed him in a 6-1 6-0 6-2 trouncing.


The 19-year-old Michelsen was left so frustrated at one point he ended up slumping over the net, before berating the umpire in an epic meltdown over a line call that went against him. Replays showed the ball was out and Michelsen was actually correct, with the American screaming at the umpire: "Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh my god! That is the least funny thing I've ever heard in my entire life."

Alex Michelsen cut a frustrated figure as he was crushed by Alex de Minaur at the French Open. Image: AAP
Alex Michelsen cut a frustrated figure as he was crushed by Alex de Minaur at the French Open. Image: AAP

For de Minaur it marked the perfect start to his French Open campaign after a miserable opening two days for his compatriots. Ajla Tomljanovic, Daria Saville and Jordan Thompson were among the many to crash out as the Aussies failed to get a single win until de Minaur's victory.

De Minaur has a big chance to become the first Australian man to make the second week at Roland Garros for 17 years and said his first round win was "probably" his best at Roland Garros - where he's never made it past the second round. "Well, there's not too many to go from, so I'll take it! Looking at the scores and everything, it probably is," de Minaur said. "I'm a completely different player than previous years on the surface. I feel comfortable. I feel capable. I'm going to do my very best because ultimately my goals are, at the slams, to go deep."

with agencies