Thanasi Kokkinakis says the second half of his career could be his best after ending an eight-year run without a French Open win in a bold opening day for Australians at Roland Garros.
Putting his wildcard to the ultimate use, the 27-year-old took down British 20th seed Evans 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to win on Paris clay for the first time since 2015.
Australia’s female stocks were boosted to two when Storm Hunter got through qualifying and she continued that winning momentum by securing her first singles victory in the main draw of a grand slam.
Jason Kubler then made it a trio of opening-day wins for Australians, winning a five-set battle with Argentine lucky loser Facundo Diaz Acosta to record a 1-6 6-3 6-4 3-6 6-1 victory.
Kokkinakis has endured an injury-plagued career but is confident that should his body stand up, so can his tennis on the back of his win.
“When it feels like half of your career has been kind of taken away, you hope you can have a bit at the back end,” the now 27-year-old said.
“As long as my body is able to … we’ll see. There was a point when we didn’t think I’d play that much longer and I was 22 years old. I’m 27 now and who knows? Winning is addictive and losing makes you want to quit tennis.
“I know I can’t do this forever. Whatever I do choose, I try not to take it for granted … I know where I was many years ago when I was missing out and not having opportunities.
“You never know but I find it hard to see myself playing like these guys you see playing past 35, 36. There’s so much travel, from Australia constantly. Your social life pretty much goes out the window.”
Kokkinakis will face either former champion Stan Wawrinka or veteran Spanish clay-courter Albert Ramos-Vinolas in round 2.
Hunter remains the only Aussie female in the draw after Kim Birrell, competing for the first time in the main draw at Roland Garros, lost in three sets to local Leolia Jeanjean.
Men’s singles, first round
(18) Alex de Minaur (AUS) v Ilya Ivashka
Max Purcell (AUS) v Jordan Thompson (AUS)
Alexei Popyrin (AUS) v (Q) Aslan Karatsev
Chris O’Connell (AUS) v Taro Daniel (JPN)
Men’s singles, second round
Jason Kubler (AUS) v TBC
(WC) Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) v TBC
Women’s singles, second round
(Q) Storm Hunter (AUS) v TBC