With the weather, both in terms of air pollution from the disastrous bush fires and the otherwise welcome rain, co-operating, the first round of the Australian Open qualifying was finally completed on Thursday, with 32 second-round matches also played. The rest are planned for Friday. But what were the headlines from Melbourne Park?
Australian Open Qualifying Day Three
Steve Darcis, who led Eliot Benchetrit 4-2 before the rain came yesterday, was unable to find his best tennis on the restart. In what proved to be his last ever professional tennis match, Darcis came out flat, allowing the young Frenchman Benchetrit to rally to a 7-5 7-5 win.
The 18-year-old Australian Rinky Hijikata, meanwhile, found a way past the second seed Henri Laaksonen. The match was as close, but perhaps surprisingly it was teenager who was able to find an extra gear in both tiebreaks, wining 7-6 (0) 7-6 (3) as a result.
Former world #45 Anna-Lena Friedsam was stunned by 18-year-old Japanese Yuki Naito. Friedsam led 5-2 in the second set, but faded badly, losing the next five games to crash out of contention. The German had a brilliant run in Australia four years ago, losing in the fourth round to Agnieszka Radwanska.
JJ Wolf, formerly a star of college tennis in the US, is currently on a 12-match winning streak, including winning the Champaign Challenger title in November and another Challenger in Noumea just a week ago. The American showed no signs of slowing down, dismantling Zdenek Kolar 6-4 6-2 to take a big step towards the Australian Open main draw.
Emil Ruusuvuori was absolutely brilliant in his win over Facundo Mena. The Argentinian defeated Ruusuvuori twice in March last year, but the Finn has made impressive progress since. He outclassed Mena, dropping just seven points on serve in a straightforward 7-5 6-2 win.
The 19-year-old Varvara Gracheva, one of the breakout players on the ITF circuit last season, has continued to impress in 2020, beating France’s Chloe Paquet in just about an hour. The Russian won 87 percent of the points behind her first serve and did not face a single breakpoint.
After a good week in Auckland, Eugenie Bouchard was rather disappointing in her first-round qualifying win at the Australian Open, but the Canadian played some great tennis today to beat Maddison Inglis. Bouchard reeled off 12 of the last 14 games in a superb 6-3 6-1 victory.
Maximilian Marterer looked very solid in his second match since last year’s Roland Garros. Coming back from a knee injury, the German kept up with his countryman Yannick Maden for 3 hours and 13 minutes affair. But he came up short in the end, losing 7-6 (2) 6-7 (2) 6-7 (8).
Amir Weintraub, who hadn’t played a single match between January 2017 and May 2019, is planning to retire after the Australian Open. The Israeli got into the event as an alternate for Hyeon Chung and looked a long way short of his best, losing 2-6 1-6 to Lorenzo Musetti. In all the five matches he played in the past year, Weintraub hasn’t won more than four games in a match.
Peter Polansky, who was a lucky loser for every Grand Slam in 2018, will not be able to make it this time. The Canadian had a disastrous 2-6 1-6 loss to France’s Alexandre Muller. Nicolas Mahut was also a long way short of his best. The Frenchman never threatened Mario Vilella Martinez, failing to fashion a single breakpoint.
23-year-old Indy De Vroome, who was in great form during the November and December ITFs, came up short against Lara Arruabarrena. De Vroome plays a very risky game and although it had seemed like she could dominate the Spaniard on a hard court, but she was wildly inconsistent for most of the match. Urszula Radwanska, meanwhile, a former top 30 player, was poor in defeat to Johanna Larsson. The Pole led 3-2 in the first set, but won only one more game.
The aforementioned Hijikata upset Henri Laaksonen, while Max Purcell and Aleksandar Vukic are already in the final round of qualifying with great wins over Gianluca Mager and Matthias Bachinger, respectively. But Blake Mott and Luke Saville, a champion in the juniors at both Wimbledon and the Australian Open, were eliminated.
In the women’s draw, Storm Sanders thrashed Robin Anderson, whilst Destanee Aiava advanced to the third round with a win over Varvara Flink. But Olivia Rogowska, Belinda Woolcock, Jaimee Fourlis, Maddison Inglis, and Kaylah MacPhee were all eliminated from the competition.
Match of the day
A tight contest between Paolo Lorenzi and Lukas Rosol clocked in at exactly three hours. With an interesting contrast of styles, it was the Italian who seemed to be on the front foot for the majority of the match. Even after missing two match points in the second set tie-break, Lorenzi got himself another great opportunity when he forced an opening in Rosol’s service game at 5-5 in the decider. But the Czech dug himself out of a 0-40 hole and broke in the next game, taking the match 6-7 (4) 7-6 (9) 7-5.
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