Lleyton Hewitt expects rising star Thanasi Kokkinakis to be granted a wildcard entry into the Australian Open following the 17-year-old’s strong start to the summer in Brisbane.
The South Australian teenager, who earned a spot in the main draw at the Brisbane International after winning three qualifying matches without dropping a set, gave two-time grand slam winner Hewitt a solid hit-out in Tuesday’s first round clash at Pat Rafter Arena.
While Kokkinakis went down 6-3 7-5 to the former world No.1, Hewitt hopes organisers will grant Kokkinakis a berth in the first grand slam of the year.
Kokkinakis missed December’s wildcard playoff in favour of a training camp in the US where he hit with American Sam Querrey, Japan’s Kei Nishikori and Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov as well as stacking on 3kg of muscle.
Runner-up to compatriot Nick Kyrgios in last year’s Australian Open junior boys final, Kokkinakis says he’ll only play in the seniors in Melbourne after being invited to join Australia’s Davis Cup squad ahead of their World Group round one clash in France on January 31.
And Hewitt has backed the world No.628 following an impressive qualifying tournament in Brisbane including a win over world No.82 Andrey Golubev to earn his ATP Tour main draw debut on Tuesday night.
“I would think Thanasi would probably get one anyway,” Hewitt said when asked if Kokkinakis should be considered for a wildcard.
“I haven’t spoken to anyone. I don’t decide the wildcards. But if they were to come and ask me, I would be surprised if he didn’t get one.”
While both Kokkinakis and Kyrgios could both receive Open wildcards, a shoulder injury that forced Kyrgios out of the Brisbane tournament could further enhance Kokkinakis’ chances.
While Kyrgios is still hopeful of being fit for Melbourne, Kokkinakis or Queenslander Ben Mitchell are likely to be the main beneficiaries if the 18-year-old doesn’t recover in time.