Paris, 1 June 2013 |

Rising star Thanasi Kokkinakis has enjoyed a taste of the big time at Roland Garros this week, hitting the practice courts with world No.4 and seven-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal.

Ruled out of the French Open Junior Championships with a back injury, the 17-year-old is hard at training in Paris as he looks towards a comeback to the junior circuit at Wimbledon next month.

Kokkinakis, a finalist at this year’s Australian Open boys’ singles championships, spent more than an hour on court with the 2013 French Open favourite this week, later summing up the claycourt master’s game as “ridiculously good”.

“I’ve hit with most of the other top players before but nothing compared to how intense Rafa trains and how hard he hits the ball,” Kokkinakis said.

“Rafa didn’t want to hit at the main venue because of the crowds and all the attention he gets, so we went to some outside practise courts and hit there for an hour or so. It was so intense, it was really good.

“He’s obviously focused on trying to win his eighth French Open title, so to have the opportunity to train with him was awesome.”

The 17-year-old South Australian, who currently sits at No.773 on the ATP rankings, has his hopes pinned on a return to competition at next month’s Wimbledon Junior Championships following a four-month layover with injury.

“Since my back injury I haven’t played any matches so I’m just here in Paris training and hopefully my back stays right for Wimbledon.  It’s starting to come good so I’ll see how it holds up,” Kokkinakis said.

When he’s not hard at it on the practise courts Kokkinakis has been keeping a close eye on the Aussies in action at Roland Garros, including his Australian Open Juniors conqueror, Nick Kyrgios.

“I watched Nick in the first two sets of his first-round match and that’s the best I think I’ve seen him play,” he said.

“It was a great effort from him and good for tennis in Australia.

“I watched Lleyton [Hewitt] a little bit and I didn’t get to see any of Ash [Barty], but obviously that was a good win for her. I haven’t been getting out to the courts that much because mostly I’ve been hitting and recovering, but I’ve been following on the TV.”

Kokkinakis is no stranger to mixing it with the world’s top players, taking on Fernando Verdasco and partnering Venus Williams at this year’s Hyundai Hopman Cup before hitting with some of the game’s elite at Australian Open 2013.

Earlier this week Aussie wildcard Kyrgios hit the Roland Garros courts with world No.1 Novak Djokovic, continuing a trend set at Melbourne Park this summer for the world’s top players to train alongside Australia’s rising stars at Grand Slam events.

Australians Kyrgios, Bradley Mousley, Omar Jasika, Harry Bourchier and Sara Tomic are expected to contest the French Open Junior Championships when play gets underway on Sunday.