Paris, France, 29 May 2024 | Leigh Rogers

Thanasi Kokkinakis has made a winning start to his Roland Garros 2024 campaign – but it has come at the expense of Australian peer and occasional doubles partner Alexei Popyrin.

After battling for four hours and 24 minutes, Kokkinakis was eventually able to close out a 4-6 7-6(8) 6-3 5-7 6-3 victory against his higher-ranked compatriot.

“It’s definitely not easy playing a good mate and I thought Alexei played a hell of a match as well,” Kokkinakis said. “He made me lift my level and I just had to stay with it.”

There was drama aplenty in just the second all-Australian clash in the opening round of a Roland Garros men’s singles draw in 22 years. From the inclement weather which delayed the contest, to missed opportunities that could have proved match changing.

World No.51 Popyrin almost held a two-sets-to-love lead, after earning two set points during a fiercely contested second-set tiebreak.

The frustration of not converting on either of those opportunities led to Popyrin quickly falling behind 0-4 in the third set, as Kokkinakis seized control of the match.

Yet the twists and turns continued, with Popyrin fighting back to win the fourth set and then racing to a 2-0 advantage in the deciding set.

“I’m down a break in the fifth and you think ‘Oh my god’ it’s going to be a tough night,” Kokkinakis admitted. “You’ve just got to try and keep the faith amid this internal dialogue that you’re battling with yourself.”

But world No.100 Kokkinakis charged home to win six of the final seven games and secure victory at close to midnight local time.

“It feels like it’s taken years off my life,” a weary Kokkinakis said after the match.

This is Kokkinakis’ third consecutive win in matches which have extended to five sets, improving his career record to six wins from the 11 five-set matches he has played.

Meanwhile, it marks another disappointing exit at Roland Garros for Popyrin. He is now on a six-match losing streak in Paris, dating back to reaching the second round in his main-draw debut in 2019.

That remains the 24-year-old’s best result at a tournament where he became the first Australian in 49 years to win the boys’ singles title with an impressive run in 2017.

Kokkinakis, who in contrast has recorded his career-best Grand Slam singles results at Roland Garros, now turns his attention to a second-round clash with world No.148 Giulio Zeppieri.

The 22-year-old Italian qualifier scored the biggest win of his career earlier today, eliminating world No.22 Adrian Mannarino in four sets.

Kokkinakis has twice reached the third round in Paris – as a teenage wildcard in his main-draw debut in 2015 and again last year.

The 28-year-old South Australian joins compatriot Alex de Minaur in the second round, after the top-ranked Australian produced a ruthless display to begin his campaign in style earlier today.

> READ: De Minaur secures statement win at Roland Garros

Unfortunately, both Rinky Hijikata and Adam Walton bowed out in the opening round in their Roland Garros main-draw debuts.

Aussies in action – Roland Garros

Men’s singles, first round
[11] Alex de Minaur (AUS) d Alex Michelsen (USA) 6-1 6-0 6-2
Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 4-6 7-6(8) 6-3 5-7 6-3
Luciano Darderi (ITA) d Rinky Hijikata (AUS) 6-3 7-6(6) 6-1
Arthur Rinderknech (FRA) d [WC] Adam Walton (AUS) 6-2 6-4 7-5

Men’s singles, second round
[11] Alex de Minaur (AUS) v Jaume Munar (ESP)
Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) v [Q] Giulio Zeppieri (ITA) 

> VIEW: Roland Garros 2024 men’s singles draw

Women’s doubles, first round
[2] Ellen Perez (AUS)/Nicole Melichar-Martinez (USA) v Ingrid Gamarra Martins (BRA)/Olivia Nicholls (GBR)
Daria Saville (AUS)/Ajla Tomljanovic (AUS) v [16] Miyu Kato (JPN)/Nadiia Kichenok (UKR)

Men’s doubles, first round
[2] Matt Ebden (AUS)/Rohan Bopanna (IND) v Marton Fuscovics (HUN)/Emil Ruusuvuori (FIN)
Max Purcell (AUS)/Jordan Thompson (AUS) v Tallon Griekspoor (NED)/Bart Stevens (NED)
John-Patrick Smith (AUS)/Denys Molchanov (UKR) v Petros Tsitsipas (GRE)/Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)
Rinky Hijikata (AUS)/Guido Andreozzi (ARG) v Nicolas Barrientos (COL)/Francisco Cabral (POR)
John Peers (AUS)/Roman Safiullin v Yuki Bhambri (IND)/Albano Olivetti (FRA)
Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS)/Denis Shapovalov (CAN) v [14] Nathaniel Lammons (USA)/Jackson Withrow (USA)

Mixed doubles, first round
[1] Ellen Perez (AUS)/Matt Ebden (AUS) v [WC] Tessah Andrianjafitrimo (FRA)/Ugo Humbert (FRA)
Nicole Melichar-Martinez (USA)/John Peers (AUS) v [5] Vera Zvonareva/Sander Gille (BEL)

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