Melbourne, Australia, 22 January 2024 | Leigh Rogers

Six years ago, a starry eyed Tahlia Kokkinis stepped out at Rod Laver Arena to toss the coin before an Australian Open semifinal between Caroline Wozniacki and Elise Mertens.

It was an unforgettable moment for the young Hot Shots Tennis player from Brisbane.

Kokkinis is back at Melbourne Park this week, creating even more on-court memories as a wildcard in the Australian Open Junior Championships.

“To play here is like a dream,” beamed the 15-year-old.

“The atmosphere is great. I really like the Australian support, it’s amazing. I love playing in front of crowds, I like the positive energy that they bring.”

The world No.283 made an impressive start to her singles campaign yesterday, powering past Kazakhstan’s Asylzhan Arystanbekova in straight sets.

Kokkinis credited the crowd support for inspiring her against an opponent who was two years her senior and ranked 227 places higher at world No.56.

“The crowd really helped me,” Kokkinis said. “When I heard that support it motivated me and made me stay focused.”

A young Tahlia Kokkinis with Elise Mertens and Caroline Wozniacki at Australian Open 2018. Picture: Getty Images

A young Tahlia Kokkinis with Elise Mertens and Caroline Wozniacki at Australian Open 2018. Picture: Getty Images

Her girls’ doubles campaign ended in the opening round today, bowing out in a close three-set battle alongside fellow Australian Koharu Nishikawa.

Kokkinis, who represented Australia in the Junior Billie Jean King Cup Finals at Spain in November, now turns her attention to her second-round singles match tomorrow.

She plays 16th seed Iva Ivanova, a 17-year-old Bulgarian ranked No.22 in the ITF World Tour junior rankings.

“I know her, but I’ve never played against her,” Kokkinis said. “I know she’s a pretty good player, so I’ll have to play well.”

Kokkinis is enjoying all the perks of competing at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time, describing electronic lining calling, a serve clock and the opportunity to replay close line calls as “really cool”.

She does admit, however, that being surrounded by professional players still leaves her starstruck.

“I’ve seen a lot of them in the gym,” Kokkinis said of the world’s top-ranked players.

“I’m speechless whenever I walk past any of them, I can’t say anything.”

> BUY NOW: Australian Open 2024 tickets

Aussies in action – Australian Open

Girls’ singles, second round
[4] Hannah Klugman (GBR) d [Q] Alana Subasic (AUS) 6-1 6-2

Girls’ doubles, first round
[7] Emerson Jones (AUS)/Mika Stojsavljevic (GBR) d Reina Goto (JPN)/Junhan Zhang (CHN) 2-6 7-5 [10-1]
Asylzhan Arystanbekova (KAZ)/Yuliya Perapekhina d Renee Alame (AUS)/Alana Subasic (AUS) 6-1 6-3
Shiho Tsujioka (JPN)/Hikari Yamamoto (JPN) d [WC] Kimiko Cooper (AUS)/Gabby Gregg (AUS) 6-2 6-1
Laura Brunkel (DEN)/Olivia Carneiro (BRA) d [WC] Tahlia Kokkinis (AUS)/Koharu Nishikawa (AUS) 6-4 3-6 [10-6]

Girls’ singles, second round
[6] Emerson Jones (AUS) v Mika Buchnik (ISR)
Maya Joint (AUS) 
v [Q] Isabelle Lacy (GBR)
[WC] Tahlia Kokkinis (AUS) v [16] Iva Ivanova (BUL)

> VIEW: Australian Open 2024 girls’ singles draw

Girls’ doubles, second round
[6] Maya Joint (AUS)/Kristiana Sidorova v Renata Jamrichova (SVK)/Isabelle Lacy (GBR)
[7] Emerson Jones (AUS)/Mika Stojsavljevic (GBR) v Yoana Konstantinova (BUL)/Teodora Kostovic (SRB)

> VIEW: Australian Open 2024 girls’ doubles draw

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