Impressive Harris continues slam momentum

Match Report

“I had a peep at the draw,” admitted Lloyd Harris after becoming one of nine Australian Open 2019 qualifiers to book a main-draw berth at Melbourne Park for the first time. “There’s a lot of seeds out there, but a lot of good opportunities.”

The 21-year-old South African was among the first to qualify on the eve of the tournament, fending off a late resurgence from Dustin Brown for an impressive 6-1 7-6(10) win.

Of the 16 men to advance with a ‘Q’ next to their name, eight will face seeds in the first round, including world No.1 and six-time champion Novak Djokovic, No.8 seed Kei Nishikori and 2009 semi-finalist Fernando Verdasco.

MORE: Men’s singles qualifying results

“I’ll be happy with whoever I play,” said Harris, brimming with confidence after qualifying for his second successive major. “Facing an experienced player on a big court might be just what I need, but also to play someone a little lower down and have a chance of winning would also be good. Obviously you have to go in there thinking you can beat anyone, but some spots are definitely easier than others.”

Having skyrocketed up the rankings in 2018, Lloyd has been in impressive form in Melbourne. With a build and powerful baseline game that carries echoes of compatriot Kevin Anderson, he held his nerve to regroup after Brown saved the first match point of the tiebreak with the type of reaction volley the German has made something of a trademark.

“I felt I was playing some really good points in that second set, but I couldn’t get the break,” said the world No.119. “He just came up with some ridiculous volleys, and I was just happy to stay solid and win more of the important points in the end.”

Qualifying for a second Grand Slam is another landmark moment in Harris’s fledgling career – one that almost ended before it began. 

“It was a tough time when I was a junior,” he explained. “We ran out of funding, my parents couldn’t afford more, and sponsors were tough to find. But we came up with the money, and I started playing really well on the Futures tour and was able to continue my run on the pro tour. I was very fortunate – it’s something I’ll always remember.”

MORE: Australian Open 2019 men's singles draw

Harris was the third man to reach the main draw on Friday, hot on the heels of American Christopher Eubanks, who downed Spaniard Pedro Martinez 6-3 6-3 to qualify at a major for the first time, and Italy’s Luca Vanni, a 6-2 6-2 winner over Hiroki Moriya of Japan.

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Kokkinakis is through to the main draw of AO2019

Thanasi Kokkinakis earned his way into a Grand Slam main draw via qualifying for the first time in his career with a 6-4 6-4 victory over Canada’s Peter Polansky, while in the all-German affair, 18-year-old Rudolf Molleker recovered from a set down to beat Oscar Otte for a 4-6 6-4 7-5 win in his first Grand Slam appearance.

Fellow teenager Miomir Kecmanovic is another through to the main draw at a major for the first time, the 19-year-old routing No.17 seed Thiago Monteiro 6-2 6-1 in 61 minutes. There were also straight-sets wins for Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen, downing Joao Domingues 7-6(4) 6-2, and Dan Evans, the Briton bumping No.4 seed Paolo Lorenzi of Italy 6-3 6-3.

Not everyone found the going as straightforward, not least top seed Lorenzo Sonego. The Italian seemed to be cruising after winning eight games in a row for a 2-0 lead in the third set over Tatsuma Ito, but the Japanese world No.151 battled back for a hard-earned 7-6(6) 0-6 7-6(3) win in two hours, 30 minutes. 

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Lloyd Harris: a star on the rise

Bjorn Fratangelo came even closer to the exit, saving three match points against China’s Ze Zhang at 4-5 in the second set before racing to a 6-7(4) 7-6(1) 6-1 victory that returns him to the main draw in Melbourne for a third successive year. 

Both Prajnesh Gunneswaran and Gleb Sakharov fought back from a set down to advance in matches that also ran past two hours on a balmy afternoon at Melbourne Park. No.6 seed Gunneswaran overturned Japan’s Yosuke Watanuki 6-7(5) 6-4 6-4, while Frenchman Sakharov recovered against Tim Smyczek 3-6 6-3 6-4.

Poland’s Kamil Majchrzak emerged from qualifying at a Grand Slam tournament at the fifth attempt with a 6-3 6-2 win over Mats Moraing of Germany, bringing the total number of main draw debutants to qualify to five.

At the other end of the scale, Viktor Troicki’s 6-2 3-6 6-3 win over Darian King of Barbados booked the Serbian his 11th main draw berth in Melbourne.

Stefano Travaglia made it three successful qualifying campaigns in succession, reaching the Australian Open main draw for the first time after runs at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2018. And Mitchell Krueger claimed the 16th and last qualifying spot – and third for an American – with a tight 6-3 5-7 6-4 victory over Argentina’s Marco Trungelliti.