Paris, France, 31 May 2023 | Vivienne Christie

Thanasi Kokkinakis is growing in confidence at Roland Garros, with a thrilling five-set win over former champion Stan Wawrinka securing his progress to the third round.

The 3-6 7-5 6-3 6-7(4) 6-3 victory over the veteran Swiss equals Kokkinakis’ best performance in 18 main-draw campaigns at majors, with his lone previous passage to the third round of a Grand Slam also achieved at Roland Garros in 2015.

Kokkinakis encountered an experienced adversary in Wawrinka, who defeated Roger Federer in the quarterfinals and Novak Djokovic in the final to lift the 2015 men’s singles trophy and was contesting the clay-court major for a 17th time.

The Australian relied on his usual weapons throughout the four hour, 38 minute encounter – firing 12 aces and counting some sizzling forehands among his 51 total winners – but ultimately benefited the most from maintaining composure against the former world No.3.

Kokkinakis faced only one break point in the opening stanza, Wawrinka converting to take a 5-3 lead and subsequently the set. He didn’t panic when the Swiss led 4-2 in the second set, achieving his first break of serve in the eighth game and eventually levelling the match on his third set point.

While Kokkinakis, a 108th-ranked wildcard entrant, had enjoyed a straight-sets win over No.20 seed Dan Evans in the first round, world No.89 Wawrinka toiled for more than four-and-a-half hours to overcome Albert Ramos Vinolas in his opening 2023 match.

The contrasting physical and mental toll started to tell as a more relaxed Kokkinakis gained an early break of serve and maintained his lead to secure the third set.

A workmanlike Wawrinka, who had progressed to the tournament’s third round or better on 12 previous occasions, inevitably persisted. Helped by a fervently supportive crowd on Court Simonne Mathieu, he continued to threaten throughout the fourth set.

Kokkinakis saved nine break points – five in the second game, four in the sixth – before finally regaining some control, surrendering only one point in his next three service games. But with those tests survived, a baffling tiebreak followed; Wawrinka took a 5-0 lead and went on to secure the set in a gruelling 84 minutes.

Alongside Gael Monfils, Wawrinka holds the record of most five-set wins – 10 in total – at Roland Garros. However fatigue finally factored for the veteran competitor, Kokkinakis capitalising with a double break of serve and at last securing a career-defining victory on his fifth match point.

“Wow, what a match,” said Kokkinakis, thanking the crowd for the atmosphere they created.

“The first set and a half, he was playing I think the best tennis he could play. I was nowhere, I just tried to hang in there.”

The 27-year-old admitted that a brutal second-round loss to Andy Murray at Australian Open 2023 played on his mind.

“I lost a match in a Grand Slam earlier this year, against Murray from two sets to love,” Kokkinakis added.

“I didn’t want to do it against another legend  … but I just trusted myself and I’m so happy.”

It sets a third-round counter with No.11 seed Karen Khachanov, with Kokkinakis aiming to achieve the best Grand Slam result of his career.

Earlier, compatriots Jason Kubler and Storm Hunter were each eliminated in second-round matches – Kubler exiting to Fabio Fognini in the men’s draw and Hunter extending Elina Svitolina to three sets in the women’s singles event.

Alex de Minaur, the No.1 Australian, and countryman Max Purcell will contest second-round matches in Paris on Thursday.

Aussies in action – Roland Garros

Men’s singles, second round
[WC] Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) d Stan Wawrinka (SUI) 3-6 7-5 6-3 6-7(4) 6-3
Fabio Fognini (ITA) d Jason Kubler (AUS) 6-4 7-6(5) 6-2 

Women’s singles, second round
Elina Svitolina (UKR) d [Q] Storm Hunter (AUS) 2-6 6-3 6-1

> READ: Hunter ousted in second-round battle at Roland Garros

Men’s singles, second round
[18] Alex de Minaur (AUS) v Tomas Martin Etcheverry (ARG)
Max Purcell (AUS) v [27] Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN)

Men’s singles, third round
[WC] Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) 
v [11] Karen Khachanov

> READ: Australians enjoy winning starts in doubles at Roland Garros

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