Ben Mitchell: on the rise again
After a slow start to 2013, Ben Mitchell has caught fire to win two titles and 16 of his past 19 matches. Can the talented Queenslander continue his exciting ascent?
At the beginning of 2012, Ben Mitchell had the tennis world at his feet.
Having 12 months earlier been ranked outside the top 600, the Queenslander was poised to crack the world’s top 200 at just 19 years of age, after enjoying a stellar 2011 season that reaped four ITF Futures titles.
His reward for those wins and rapid rise up the ranks was a wildcard into Australian Open 2012,and although he was unlucky to draw world No.17 John Isner as his first round opponent, he pushed the American in three tight sets. Mitchell peaked at world No.209 just a few weeks later.
But like so many players before him, backing up his extraordinary success in 2011 proved a tough task. No longer an unknown quantity and with the added pressure of defending several points from his 2011 tournament victories, he broke even with 30 wins and 30 losses and fell outside the top 300 by the end of 2012.
Although he was victorious at the Australian Open Wildcard Play-off in December 2012 – a demonstration of his vastly improved fitness and impressive mental strength in a new five-set format – his Australian Open campaign ended at the hands of good friend James Duckworth. The emotionally and physically-sapping encounter wound up at 8-6 in the fifth set.
Mitchell even fell as low as No.406 in March after a 2-9 start to the 2013 season, not helped by a severely cut toe that forced him out of competition for a month.
Impressively, however, he has righted the ship.
The first signs of an upward swing were apparent when the 20-year-old headed to the United States, where he reached the semifinals of a Futures event in Little Rock, Arkansas and then the quarterfinals a fortnight later at a tournament in Vero Beach, Florida.
He then headed to Asia and promptly won the Futures title in Bangkok, his first tournament win in seven months and first outside of Australia in almost two years.
It was a victory that he described as a “relief” on his Instagram account.
“[That was referring to] the scoreline and the fact I haven’t won a tournament this year – I have very high expectations for myself,” he explained.
The wins kept coming when he headed to Korea. The young Aussie claimed his second title for the season with a win at the Gyeongsan Futures event.
“It feels good to win a couple tournaments in three weeks. That winning feeling is important for any player,” he said.
Indeed, in his past five events, Mitchell has won 16 of his past 19 matches, and after a tepid start to the season, his 2013 win-loss record now stands at a more impressive 18-12.
And he’s slashing his ranking. Currently at world No.337, he stands to rise even higher following his triumph in Korea, and is projected to vault to around the No.300-mark.
What’s been the catalyst for the drastic change in his fortunes?
“One big thing that has helped is winning the big points and that comes from playing matches,” Mitchell revealed.
“I have won five-from-five tie breakers in the two tournaments I won and dropped just one set in each of those tournaments, which is handy.
“I’m feeling confident I will reach my goals now. I will play one or two more Futures and then will go on to play Challengers and then hopefully play US Open.”
Should he continue his current form and upward trajectory, it’s certainly a realistic and attainable goal.