Men's wrap: Vukic scores breakthrough in AO qualifying

  • Matt Trollope

Aleksandar Vukic was one of several Australian men moving through to the second round of qualifying on Tuesday at Melbourne Park.

The Sydneysider notched a career milestone thanks to his 7-6(2) 6-4 win over No.11 seed Thomas Fabbiano – it marked his first ever victory in a Grand Slam qualifying tournament.

Vukic joined countrymen Blake Mott, Max Purcell and Luke Saville on the winners’ list, along with Maddison Inglis and Destanee Aiava in the women’s event.

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"These are the milestones you want to hit as a tennis player. You want to win a match at a Grand Slam, whether it's qualifying or main draw,” said Vukic, who in 2019 improved his ranking from No.484 to No.273, and peaked at No.253 in October.

"I want to play all the Grand Slams this year, so (I want to) to get inside the top 250 by French Open. That would be one of my first goals."

MORE: Women's wrap: Bouchard battles through

Last year the 23-year-old Vukic played his first full season on tour after graduating from the University of Illinois.

A wildcard into the Australian Open 2020 qualifying draw, he was forced to save five break points in the final game against Fabbiano, who made a name for himself in 2019 with a stunning first-round upsets of Stefanos Tsitsipas at Wimbledon, and Dominic Thiem at the US Open.

"In the second set I got more confidence and thought I started returning better; I just tried to put as much pressure as I could (on him),” Vukic said.

"He made some tough shots in that last game and put me under pressure there ... I was hoping not to get broken (laughter).

“Thoughts are running through your head (at that point). I'm not going to lie. I don't think anyone can prevent those thoughts. It's about getting rid of them as quick as you can and just focusing.

“Luckily I got through.”

MORE: Full men's qualifying draw

Vukic will next meet the winner of the first-round match between fellow Australian Jason Kubler and Germany’s Matthias Bachinger.

At exactly the same time on the refurbished Court 3, No.19 seed Jason Jung overcame former No.38 Donald Young.

Jung led by a set and a break, and held two match points in the subsequent tiebreak, only for Young to dig in and force a third set. Yet the Taiwanese player rebounded strongly to build a 5-0 lead, closing out a 6-4 6-7(8) 6-1 win shortly after.

Buoyed by his recent run to the final of the Asia-Pacific Wildcard Play-off in Zhuhai in December, the in-form Jung will take on Colombia’s Daniel Elahi Galan for a place in the final round at Melbourne Park.

'Thoughts are running through your head (at that point). I'm not going to lie. I don't think anyone can prevent those thoughts. It's about getting rid of them as quick as you can and just focusing'
Aleksandar Vukic

Also advancing was former world No.10 Ernests Gulbis, who belted 20 winners and committed just five unforced errors in a decisive 6-3 6-3 win over Maxime Cressy.

The highest seed to progress on Tuesday was No.7 Denis Kudla, who overcame Australia’s former world No.17 Bernard Tomic 7-6(4) 6-3.

Other Aussies to fall were Matt Ebden – who lost to 13th seed Gianluca Mager of Italy – and teenage wildcard Tristan Schoolkate, who increasingly struggled with cramping in a 2-6 7-5 7-5 loss to Juan Pablo Varillas Patino-Samudio of Peru.

But the success of fellow Aussies Mott, Purcell and Saville were good news stories for the host nation.

MORE: Full men's qualifying results
 
Mott, who broke his wrist in December after falling during the Australian Open Play-off, posted a 6-3 6-4 win over 27th seed Pedro Sousa. Mott is just five events into his comeback after a two-year hiatus from the sport.

Purcell, who almost won a main-draw wildcard in December before falling to John-Patrick Smith in the AO Play-off final, overcame the disappointment of three missed match points in the second set to record a 7-6(2) 6-7(4) 6-4 win over Argentine Andrea Collarini.

Saville, an Australian Open junior champion, earned a 6-3 6-3 victory over Denmark’s Mikael Torpegaard.

A winner of an ITF Futures event in New Zealand to open the season, Saville has not dropped a set in six match wins so far in 2020.