“Miracle Matteo” and other thoughts from the Australian Open qualifiers

Matteo "Lazarus" Viola

Miracle Matteo

When Matteo Viola trailed Dusan Lajovic 5-0 and 40-0* in the third set of his first round qualifying match in Melbourne, a place in the main draw must have seemed light years away.

With seemingly no way back, he dug out a hold, saving a total of five match points in that game.

By the time he had ground out an 8-6 victory in the third set, a total of nine match points had been fought off. Poor Lajovic probably hasn’t slept since.

Viola’s second round encounter wasn’t much easier and he faced another two match points at 6-7, 3-5, *15-40 against Antonio Veic . He needed an umpire’s overrule to escape on one, but again turned things around to prevail 6-4 in the third.

The Italian’s final match was a relative cakewalk given that he only came within three points of defeat. South Africa’s Rik De Voest led a set and a break at 6-4, 4-3 but but the battling 24-year-old pulled through 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 to complete a quite incredible route to his first slam main draw.

Gojo the Great

Peter Gojowczyk (© Tim Schuler)

There’s a hard way and there’s an easy way. In contrast to Viola, Peter Gojowczyk completely breezed through qualification.

Despite being unseeded and rated by bookmakers as an underdog in his final two matches, the 22-year old dropped just nine games to qualify, obliterating second seed Grega Zemlja and Thiemo De Bakker in the process.

Based on his performances so far, a third round encounter with Rafael Nadal looks a real possibility for the young German.

Murray has some company

James Ward

With his victory against Igor Sijsling, James Ward became the first Brit to successfully negotiate qualifying for a slam since Chris Eaton at Wimbledon in 2008.

Earlier that year Jamie Baker qualified at the Australian Open and so for the first time since then, Great Britain will have two men in the main draw of a slam outside Wimbledon.

The best of the rest

Freddie Nielsen

Popular Dane Freddie Nielsen finally qualified for his first slam main draw at the ripe old age of 28 and will play Kevin Anderson in the opening round.

Denis Kudla, runner up in the boy’s singles at the US Open in 2010, ousted Carsten Ball to reach his first slam as a pro while his fellow Ukraine-born American Alex Kuznetsov will be appearing in his first main draw since the US Open in 2007.

Danai Udomchoke made his mark at the event in 2007 when he took out Juan Carlos Ferrero before losing to Novak Djokovic in an entertaining third round four setter. The injury-plagued Thai saw off Peter Polansky of Canada with relative ease to secure his place.

Finally, Conor Niland failed in his bid to make it three slams in a row when he went out in the first round to Switzerland’s Stephane Bohli while former Melbourne finalists Rainer Schuettler and Arnaud Clement both failed to make the grade, bowing out to Bjorn Phau and Alexandre Kudryavstev in rounds one and two respectively.

With both former finalists planning to retire in 2012, it seems unlikely that either will again grace the venue of their finest career achievement.

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2 Responses to “Miracle Matteo” and other thoughts from the Australian Open qualifiers

  1. Pingback: ZooTennis: Teen Tennis Begins Sunday; Five Americans Qualify at … | thewimbledontennis.org

  2. Pingback: The return of Miracle Matteo and other reflections on qualifying round two | Shank Tennis

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