It was impossible to ignore the symbolism of Tuesday’s Australian men’s results at Melbourne Park.
Out were the nation’s two biggest names – Lleyton Hewitt and Bernard Tomic – and in were a pair of teenagers who won their first rounds, Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Both have at least partial Greek ancestry and are 193cm tall – the 18-year-old Kyrgios is from Canberra and Kokkanakis, 17, from Adelaide.
The two seem set to carry on the tradition of Aussie mateship. Krygios went out and watched Kokkinakis finish off his duel with Dutchman Igor Sisjling on Tuesday, and Kokkinakis said he would have done likewise with Kyrgios versus Benjamin Becker of Germany, but it was hot and he had to prepare his own match.
Hopes are high for Kyrgios and Kokkinakis, but their futures may well depend on fitness. Kyrgios is just getting over a shoulder ailment and has had a previous elbow injury. Kokkanakis estimates he has lost a year of tennis over the past three years due to two stress fractures in his back.
In Thursday’s second round, Kyrgios plays talented but temperamental Benoit Paire. On Tuesday, the Frenchman beat Canada’s Frank Dancevic, but spent time muttering about a left knee problem that has been affecting him.
As for Kokkinakis, he gets top seed Rafael Nadal, whom he practiced with last year at the French Open. “I’m just looking forward to going out there and having a crack,” said the lanky lad who battled cramps in the first round.
Just how green he is was evident in this exchange during his post-match interview on Tuesday:
Q. How exciting is it to be here and answer questions?
THANASI KOKKINAKIS: Yeah, it’s pretty cool. My first time. Thank you for asking questions, yeah (smiling).
Q. One day you'll be fed up with this.
THANASI KOKKINAKIS: I’m waiting for that day. I need to get a bit better first ...
Roger Federer and Andy Murray are all too acquainted with the post-match media ritual – and will again be subjected to it after their matches on Thursday with Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia and qualifier Vincent Millot of France respectively.
Day four’s schedule abounds with great match-ups, but two that many will focus on relate to the possibility of a third-round clash. If No. 11 seed Milos Raonic defeats Victor Hanescu of Romania and No. 22 Grigor Dimitrov beats Yen-Hsun Lu of Taipei, they will meet in an intriguing Saturday encounter. The 196cm Raonic from Canada is all about brute power on his serve and forehand, while the 190cm Bulgarian Dimitrov is a ‘Federer-esque’ throwback with a one-handed backhand and loads of panache.
In women’s singles action, Maria Sharapova faces Karin Knapp of Italy after losing seven games in her opening round. A year ago, Sharapova scored ‘double bagels’ in her first two rounds, so stiffer opposition early could pay off later for the Russian.
Two-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka plays former two-time Australian Open junior champion (2002-2003) Barbara Zahlovova Strycova of the Czech Republic, now 31 years of age and ranked No. 32.
On Court 6, Garbine Muguruza of Spain, winner of the Hobart title last week, faces Ana Schmiedlova of Slovakia.
The 182cm Muguruza is 20 years old and has a Spanish father and a Venezuelan mother. If Venezuela is renowned for its beauty pageant contestants and Spain for its tennis players, then the attractive Muguruza might just be an ideal combination of both.
TOM’S INTREPID TIPS
Nadal v Kokkinakis
It would too much for Kokkinakis to actually upset the awesome Nadal in his very first Grand Slam, but he could take a set. Nadal in four.
Sharapova v Knapp
A year ago, Sharapova gave away no games in her first two matches; after her meeting with Knapp, it’ll be no sets. Sharapova in straight.
Monfils v Sock
It feels like a straight-setter for Monfils, but you have to allow for the Frenchman’s customary walkabout against Sock. Monfils in four.
Wozniacki v McHale
This is a real upset possibility for McHale, but Wozniacki should be the more physical of the two in the cauldron of Rod Laver Arena. Wozniacki in three.
Murray v Millot
The 27-year-old qualifier Millot, a left-hander, is from Dijon, France. Ranked 267, he’s playing in his very first Grand Slam main draw. This is Murray’s 32nd. Murray in three.
Stephens v Tomljanovic
These 20-year-olds went to Chris Evert’s academy in Florida. Stephens beat Tomljanovic 6-0 6-1 in a 2010 match, but it will much closer this time. Stephens in three.
Cilic v Simon
Simon leads Cilic 3-0 in their head-to-head, but all three matches went the distance. Cilic capitalises on the Frenchman’s dodgy ankle for a first win. Cilic in four.
Svitolina v Rogowska
The 19-year-old Svitolina, from Ukraine, is in the top 50, while Aussie Rogowska, 22, is No. 169. The numbers tell the story. Svitolina in three.