Gael Monfils wasn’t just happy returning the ball against Jo Wilfried Tsonga – he had to ensure it made the highlights reel.
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Now is a golden time for Australia in men’s tennis. Well, not really in the way you would expect. For the first time since 2007, two men reached the fourth round of the Australian Open.
Those two players were Bernard Tomic and Lleyton Hewitt, and they could not contrast enough from each other.
Tomic is the protegee, the pin up boy, the 19-year-old who will lead Australia in the Davis Cup and in single’s competitions for the next 15 years. Hewitt has been there and done that all; he has lead Australia in the Davis Cup and Grand Slams for the past eight or so years and is obviously coming to the end of his career.
So when they both lined up in the round round, I felt as though it was the transition of Australian tennis; the changing of the guard as such, from Hewitt and other players such as Chris Guccione and Peter Lucak, to the new generation of youngsters like Tomic, Matt Ebden, James Duckworth, Greg Jones and Luke Saville.
This is the best performance from the Australian men at their home grand slam in years. Hewitt and Tomic both reached the fourth round, but it was the improvement of the younger players that impressed me.
Greg Jones took two sets off Alexandr Dolgopolov, before ultimately crashing in the final three sets. James Duckworth won his first round match in straight sets against Jurgen Zopp, who was ranked just over 100 places higher then him. He then preceded to take the first set off world number nine Janko Tipsarevic before he was overrun. Tipsarevic then stated that Duckworth could be better than a top 100 player.
Australia’s second ranked player, Matt Ebden, won his first round match and took Kei Nishikori to five sets but was beaten.
But possibly Australia’s brightest hope, apart maybe from Tomic, was barely talked about. Eighteen-year-old world juniors number one Luke Saville from Adelaide won the Australian Open junior title. Sure, this does not always bring success – see Mark Kratzmann and Brydan Klein – but like we saw in the women’s game, Victoria Azarenka did the double of junior and senior title five years apart. Saville also won the Wimbledon junior title last year to prove that he is not a fluke.
Other Australians around the mark are Carsten Ball, Guccione, Marinko Matosevic, Jason Kubler and Ben Mitchell, who lost the 2010 Wimbledon junior final, but surely has a bright future ahead of him. As does Australian tennis.