Naomi Osaka's agency signs 15-year-old Australian tennis player Cooper Kose

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Cooper Kose is an Australian tennis player who just turned 15 two weeks ago, has braces on his teeth and plenty of big plans in his head. He was a hitting partner for Coco Gauff and others at the Australian Open and signed on the eve of Wimbledon with the agency co-founded by Naomi Osaka.

Osaka, a four-time major champion and former No. 1-ranked player whose group also represents 2022 Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios and Anna Kalinskaya, practiced with Kose in Los Angeles in April at UCLA.

“I thought Cooper was a really good player. He kind of reminds me of Nick, a little bit — just with the way he swings on his forehand. And then I asked him who his favorite player was, and it was Nick, so it made sense,” Osaka said Sunday at the All England Club, where the year’s third Grand Slam tournament begins on Monday. “It’s going to be cool to watch him grow.”

And make no mistake: Kose is still growing. He said he wears a size 14 shoe and is already 1.88 meters tall, which is about 6-foot-2, and doctors have told him there’s more to come. That size helps him generate power on the serve — which both he and 2023 Wimbledon quarterfinalist Chris Eubanks, who hit with Kose in Australia in January, say reaches 120 mph (200 kph) — and forehands that are the foundations of a game Kose calls “pretty complete, to be honest.”

“He’s like a raw, uncut gem, with a lot of belief in himself,” said Stuart Duguid, Osaka’s longtime agent who co-founded the management group EVOLVE with her two years ago. “Our theory was if — if — he can cut it, he’ll be the type of player we want to represent.”

Which, Duguid explained, is a talented athlete who has “the potential to transcend tennis.”

“You can tell those that have some magic and may touch lives outside of just the ones that surround us when we come to Grand Slams. A long way to go, to be sure, but it seemed like he had a chance to do that,” said Duguid, who added that EVOLVE also is bringing aboard another teen, Yi Zhou, a 19-year-old from China.

“I hope he wouldn’t mind me saying it, but Cooper reminded us a lot of ‘The Big Guy,’” Duguid said, nodding in the direction of Kyrgios, who has been working as a TV commentator while sidelined since wrist surgery and was making a promotional appearance near the All England Club.

Kose said in a telephone interview from Gold Coast, Australia, that he first was taught to play tennis at a young age by his grandfather, who died last year. Kose said his mother and grandparents ran an indoor tennis facility in Melbourne, and he’s been told he first found himself with a racket in his hand when he was 18 months old.

He hasn’t played in a junior Grand Slam event — and might not. He’s eager to start accumulating ATP rankings points and see how he can fare against older players, hoping to improve his net play while trying to learn as much as he can about the sport and life on tour.

“My ultimate goal is to become world No. 1 and win multiple Grand Slams and basically be a good role model for up-and-coming kids,” Kose said. “And try to make a name for myself.”

Asked about meeting Osaka and hitting with her, Kose recalled with a laugh: “She couldn’t really believe my level. She was a bit shocked at how old I was — like basically everyone else I meet.”

Count Eubanks among those who had that reaction.

“I was really, really impressed. He hits the ball really, really well. He seems to love the game. So I took a liking to him. Such a nice kid,” Eubanks said. “He’s young, but he’s got an incredible game. Finding out he was (14) was a big shock. We’re playing full-on baseline games off the ground, and he’s holding his own.”

Duguid first heard about Kose when Gauff’s coach, Brad Gilbert, mentioned the Australian during a TV broadcast from Melbourne Park. That eventually led to Duguid and Osaka meeting Kose in LA.

Kyrgios’ manager, Daniel Horsfall, will be involved with Kose’s career.

“When I spoke to Cooper the first time, a lot of the things he was saying, or how he portrayed things to me, reminded me a lot of Nick back when we were growing up together,” Horsfall said.

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Howard Fendrich has been the AP’s tennis writer since 2002. Find his stories here: https://apnews.com/author/howard-fendrich

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AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis

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