A look at the 2017 Australian Open Men’s Qualifiers

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 11: Frances Tiafoe of USA plays a forehand in his 2017 Australian Open Qualifying match against Marco Cecchinato of Italy at Melbourne Park on January 11, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images)

2017 Australian Open qualifying concluded on Saturday with sixteen qualifiers finding their place in the main draw, along with one lucky loser. With play starting Monday, here is a look at the qualifiers, and their chances in the main draw.

Americans go 5-2 in final round qualifying

Five Americans joined the main draw in Melbourne, after successful qualifying campaigns. Frances Tiafoe, and Reilly Opelka, still both teenagers, highlight the group. Tiafoe defeated his countryman Tim Smyczek in the final round, and also won a three setter in the first round of qualifying. Tiafoe has made three previous appearances in Grand Slams going 0-3, and has two career ATP level wins thus far. He has a good shot in round 1 against Mikhail Kukushkin to claim his first ever tour win.

Opelka, making his Grand Slam debut, has five career tour level wins, and defeated another promising teen, Casper Ruud in final round qualifying. Opelka plays a younger hybrid version of John Isner’s game style. With his big serve, and unusual height, he dominated qualifying, not dropping a set, as no one could handle his serves. David Goffin in round 1 will be a much tougher test though.

20 year olds Noah Rubin and Ernesto Escobedo also qualified. Rubin, who won a match last year at the AO, dropped sets in his first two qualifying matches but was strong against Evgeny Donskoy in round 3. Rubin has just a pair of tour level wins, and is making his start in Melbourne against fellow qualifier Bjorn Fratangelo. Fratangelo posted his first six tour level wins last year and has made a main draw appearance in all four grand slams. Fratangelo has continued to improve his all court game, and won his final two qualifying matches after dropping the first set.

Escobedo, a ball striker with long strokes, is making his second career Grand Slam appearance. He has two tour level wins in his career, and qualified by defeating Yuki Bhambri after dropping the first set. He’ll open against fellow young gun Daniil Medvedev in round 1.

Former ATP Top 30 veterans Qualify

Three former top 30 ATP regulars qualified, bringing their years of experience in Grand Slams to the main draw. Radek Stepanek continued his run of success in slam qualifying with a routine final round qualifying win over J.P. Smith. Stepanek had tough three set matches prior to that, but he has a good chance of defeating Dmitry Tursunov in round 1 and advancing further in the draw at age 38.

Ivan Dodig faces Denis Istomin in round 1 after a relatively routine qualifying campaign. Dodig has slipped out of the top 100, but he’s still an accomplished doubles player, and at 32 his singles career is far from over. Jurgen Melzer will bring his best lefty game against Roger Federer in round 1. He dropped two sets in qualifying, including in his final round match, but he’ll still be a threat to Federer. Both Stepanek and Dodig have reached the third round in Melbourne, while Melzer has reached the fourth round before.

Home Joy for two Aussie Men Making Main Draw Debuts

20 year old Blake Mott and 24 year old Alex Bolt will both make their Slam main draw debuts after qualifying. Mott has never won a tour level match, but two straight set victories, and a three set victory James McGee will give him a shot at veteran performer Richard Gasquet in round 1. Bolt, ranked outside of the top 600, stunned Julien Benneteau in final round qualifying, after a three set win, and a straight set win. Yoshihito Nishioka, a Japanese young gun, is his first round opponent. Both will relish in continued crowd support.

Pair of Italians Reach Main Draw

Fans of Italian tennis can take heart in the qualifying success of Luca Vanni and Thomas Fabbiano. Vanni is making his third grand slam main draw appearance at 31. He’s a big server who dropped the opening set of all three of his qualifying matches. He boasts just five career tour level wins, while Fabbiano also has just five career tour level wins. The 27 year old dropped sets in his first two qualifying matches but one his final round match in straights and is making his fourth career Grand Slam main draw appearance. Fabbiano faces Donald Young, while Vanni gets top 10 player Tomas Berdych.

Russian Young Guns Rise into Main Draw

Talented teen Andrey Rublev dropped two sets in qualifying but has a great shot at victory against Rendy Lu in round 1. Rublev only has one previous main draw appearance in a Grand Slam, and has eight career tour level wins. 2016 was not super impressive for him, so perhaps in 2017 he can truly start to fulfill his potential. Alexander Bublik, also 19, is making his slam debut after a pair of tour level wins last season. Bublik, who is Russian but represents Kazakhstan, faces young Frenchman Lucas Pouille in his first match, after three straight wins from a set down. His entertaining style of play should result in a good match to watch in the main draw. Russian men’s tennis has been down in recent years, but things look to be turning around.

A Lucky Loser and the Rest of the Qualifiers

The withdrawal of Thanasi Kokkinakis allowed 28 year old Peter Polansky to setup a match with Pablo Carreno Busta in round 1. Polansky has just 1 career Grand Slam win and has never been ranked inside the top 100, but he’s certainly not known for giving up.

Lukas Lacko, who has made the third round of a slam three times, including once in Melbourne. Hasn’t been known for his focus and commitment to tennis after turning pro as a top junior, but at 29 he rolled through qualifying, and his pure ball striking could trouble Albert Ramos in the opening round. Lacko slipped below the ATP level in the past two seasons, and in 2017 his goal will be to get back to that level from a current ranking of 122.

32 year old Go Soeda has won main draw matches in Melbourne twice and after two straight three set victories, he’ll take his best shot against fellow veteran Malek Jaziri. Jaziri has more weapons, but there is something to be said for Soeda’s steady game.

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