Earlier in the week 20-year-old Bernard Tomic was making headlines for his play at the Australian Hopman Cup, but the attention has since belonged to two 16-year-old Australian teens, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Ashleigh Barty, as the next big attractions of the tennis universe.
Thursday saw John Isner withdraw from the tournament due to a minor knee injury, ending the United States chance at a finals appearance in the process, but the lanky American provided the perfect opportunity for a home-grown talent to emerge- Kokkinakis.
The 16-year-old South Australian jumped into to push world No.24 Fernando Verdasco to the limit in a 7-6 (4) 6-3 loss. It may only be the first step for the teenager in a long journey that hopefully ends up in a top 100 ranking, but he was oh so impressive, not only for his age, but for a guy ranked 755 in the world.
Kokkinakis left many impressed, including Verdasco.
"I know that he's 16-years-old and he's so young but he (has a) great stroke that normally 16-year-old guys don't have," Verdasco said. "The serve that he has is . . . professional, it's like much better than many professionals.
"He will be like a great player if he can keep going like that. He's so young . . . but like I said, he has unbelievable serves for his age and a very good forehand and backhand."
Kokkinakis jumped out to a 3-0 love advantage against Verdasco before the Spaniard was able to use his experience to escape with a 7-6 first set win. The second set came easier to Verdasco, but Kokkinakis had already made an impression. He went onto to team up with Venus Williams in the mixed doubles to top off his first day in the spotlight.
Ashleigh Barty’s Thursday may have been even more impressive; she defeated grand slam champion Francesca Schiavone 6-0 6-3 as Australia took on Italy.
The 16-year-old Queenslander will make her grand slam debut this month at the Australian Open after she received a wildcard entrance for lifting her world ranking from 669 to 175 in the space of a year.
Earlier, Tomic was able to take out his third straight win against Andreas Seppi, sealing the matchup for the Aussies over the Italians, but they only have a slim chance of making the final. German duo Tommy Haas and Tatiana Malek will have to knock off the star Serbian pairing of Djokovic and Ivanovic for the Aussies to advance.
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