AO qualifying: Czech mates book spots as main draws set

  • Dan Imhoff

Tomas Machac does not forget the elation that comes with earning a Grand Slam main draw debut the hard way.

The Czech did when he won through qualifying in Paris 16 months ago, and on Friday, he booked a major berth for a third time following his 6-2 6-3 victory over Dutchman Jesper de Jong at Melbourne Park.

MORE: All the scores from Day 5 of qualifying for AO 2022

The 21-year-old's flawless start to the season just lifted a notch, but it was his good friend Jiri Lehecka's triumph earlier on a humid final day of Australian Open qualifying which brought back fond memories.

Czech men's tennis has been on the look-out for successors to the likes of recent flag-bearers Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek, and further back to Grand Slam champions Ivan Lendl, Jan Kodes and Petr Korda.

The prospects were only on the up, following Machac's and Lehecka's contrasting triumphs.

Machac cruised through to the main draw on Friday

"It's looking pretty good, so I'm super happy our country is improving in tennis again and super happy that I'm a part of the group or part of the team," Machac said. 

"I was watching Jiri's match on the finish line, so I was seeing the last moment he made a victory. 

"I enjoyed the moment with him because I know that feeling first time I made it in the French Open, so I was super happy with him and I was feeling the same emotions like I had at the French Open (that) Jiri had."

Called up to the Czech Davis Cup team in November, Machac had no idea the streak he was about to embark on, following back-to-back victories over former top-tenner Richard Gasquet and in-form world No.26 Dan Evans.

Friday's win marked his 10th straight after his third Challenger title in Traralgon, in country Victoria, at the weekend.

"I was struggling a little bit with some illness from March to June, so I was waiting for the moment to find my game," the world No.130 said. 

"I'm super happy to see again I'm on the streak. I'm enjoying the moment but I'm focusing on my performance on the court, so that is the key of the present."

Earlier, 20-year-old Lehecka did it tough against Kazakhstani Dimitry Popko before he ensured his Grand Slam main draw debut, 4-6 6-3 6-3.

In a battle which lasted more than two hours, the world No.143 admitted nerves plagued him early on before he held the physical advantage in the third set.

Lehecka will make his major main draw debut next week in Melbourne

"I'm happy that me and Tomas, we made it through and we played pretty good matches today," Lehecka said. 

"Of course, it means a lot. This is my dream from my childhood to play on these big stages and try to play against a really good player, to try to beat them.

"I think I have a pretty good chance to beat one of the top guys. I don't know what the draw will bring us, but this was the main goal for me and I'm happy that I achieved this. I will try to break into top 100 as soon as possible and have that main draw guaranteed."

It was a strong day too for Chilean tennis after 24-year-olds Alejandro Tabilo and Tomas Barrios Vera secured their main draw berths. Tabilo downed Swede Elias Ymer 6-1 6-2 to qualify for his second Australian Open after 2020, while Barrios saw off Filip Horansky 7-5 6-4 to qualify for his second major after last year's Wimbledon.

Tabilo is back in the AO main draw for the second time

Ecuadorian 30-year-old Emilio Gomez qualified for just his second Grand Slam main draw 32 years after his father, 1990 Roland Garros champion Andres Gomez, reached the fourth round at Melbourne Park, while two Argentines ensured five South American men progressed on Friday.

Marco Trungelliti denied Bosnian former world No.23 Damir Dzumhur his eighth Australian Open main draw appearance with a 2-6 6-2 6-4 win, while Tomas Martin Etcheverry posted a 6-3 6-2 victory over 19-year-old Italian Flavio Cobolli for his debut Grand Slam main draw berth.

A pair of former world No.39s booked their return to the main draw as Moldovan Radu Albot defeated former No.28 Joao Sousa 6-4, 6-4, and Mikhail Kukushkin held off Ernesto Escobedo 6-4 5-7 7-5.

Former top-50 German Maxime Marterer, 20-year-old Kazakh Timofey Skatov and Serbian Nikola Milojevic also qualified, as did Briton Liam Broady, Slovakian Norbert Gombos, Japan's Taro Daniel and German Yannick Hanfmann.

Trevisan's persistence pays off

Martina Trevisan had no qualms coming through qualifying a second time at Melbourne Park on Friday, having done so two years ago to secure her Grand Slam main draw debut on her 10th attempt.

The Italian ran into eventual champion Sofia Kenin at the first hurdle in 2020, and her run through qualifying to the quarterfinals at Roland Garros later that year only fuelled her belief she was up to the task again.

"You see the main draw but you're still in qualies, so it's not easy to play with this emotion. But year after year I'm collecting a lot of experience, so today I felt that I was ready to play with a lot of energy," the second seed said after her 6-2 6-3 victory over Belarusian Olga Govortsova.

"As Roland Garros showed me, playing qualies is not a problem because in 2020 I started from the qualies so in the first moment, maybe I was little bit worried but I worked on it with my team. When I came here I was happy to play qualies, because sometimes playing more matches, it could help a lot."


Trevisan made it to the AO main draw for a third consecutive year

Trevisan's unexpected charge through the draw in Paris – which included wins over Coco Gauff, Maria Sakkari and Kiki Bertens – also shone a light on her remarkable journey through adversity.

The 28-year-old missed four years on tour from 2010-14 as she took time out to address an eating disorder.

"Life sometimes can be very tough and I think everybody has problems in their life, but I think the key is to never give up," Trevisan said. 

"Try to work on yourself, because I think it's the only way that you can find the positive things again. If you work, thinking of yourself, you can see again the light."

Chance could yet assign Trevisan a showdown with world No.1 Ash Barty in the opening round.

It would likely mark a debut on Rod Laver Arena.

"Ha, I mean, if I would play with Barty it will be an incredible experience," Trevisan said. 

"I'm ready to play with everybody, so if I play with Barty or play with a lower-ranking (opponent), I will prepare the match and we will see."

Trevisan's compatriot, Lucia Bronzetti, also wrapped up a main-draw berth after her 4-6 6-2 6-1 victory over Japan's Nao Hibino. 

Fifth-seeded Bulgarian Viktoriya Tomova easily accounted for Romanian Irina Maria Bara 6-2 6-1, while former world No.38 Rebecca Marino won through to her fifth Australian Open main draw at Russian eighth seed Kamila Rakhimova's expense, 4-6 6-2 7-6(7).

Marino finished strongly in the third-set tiebreak to advance

American 20-year-olds Katie Volynets and Hailey Baptiste qualified alongside compatriots Emina Bektas and Caroline Dolehide, while Ukrainian former world No.23 Lesia Tsurenko landed an 11th Australian Open main draw start with a 6-4 6-0 win over Russian Elina Avanesyan.

British 11th seed Harriet Dart ended the hopes of the last-remaining Australian in Kimberly Birrell with a 6-3 6-3 victory, while Swiss Stefanie Voegele and South Korean Jan Su Jeong booked main draw berths.

China's Zheng Qinwen backed up her Melbourne Summer Set semifinal run last week to deny Japan's Mai Hontama, while Slovakian Viktoria Kuzmova, Dutchwoman Arianne Hartono and Spaniard Cristina Bucsa secured the remaining spots.