Jasika impresses the big guns
Australia's newest tennis sensation was already being groomed for stardom long before announcing his arrival on one of the sport's biggest stages with a spectacular US Open title double.
Australia’s newest tennis sensation was already being groomed for stardom long before announcing his arrival on one of the sport’s biggest stages with a spectacular US Open title double.
Managed by global giants IMG and sponsored by super brand Nike, Omar Jasika confirmed his immense potential on Sunday by becoming the first player in 28 years to hoist both the boys’ singles and doubles trophies in New York.
The 17-year-old from Melbourne showed incredible grit to recover from a set and a break down to upset French fifth seed Quentin Halys 2-6 7-5 6-1 and join countrymen Pat Cash (1982) and Bernard Tomic (2009) on the singles honour roll.
“It hasn’t really kicked in yet, but it feels unbelievable, like very honoured to be on the lists,” Jasika said.
US Open men’s champions Stefan Edberg (1983), Andy Roddick (2000) and Andy Murray (2004) also won the junior title at Flushing Meadows and Cash is tipping a bright future for Jasika too.
“He is a real talent,” said Cash, who hit with the youngster last year in France.
“He is a little guy but he reminds me of Marcelo Rios and Rios got to No.1 in the world.
“He is a little lefty but he really hits the ball hard and fast. He has a good all round game and he works hard.”
Cash, IMG and Nike aren’t the only big names investing their time and money into the ambidextrous star, with surprise US Open men’s finalist Kei Nishikori also a big fan and mentor.
“He has practiced with Omar plenty of times and he had a chat with him this morning (before the final),” said Jasika’s coach Liam Smith.
“It is great to see a guy like him give the player like Omar the motivation to think that ‘if I work hard, if I train hard, if I do the right things and really develop my game, I can reach the top of the game.'”
Jasika’s talents are such that one international journalist on Sunday even asked the newly-crowned champion if he and fellow teenage aces Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis could forge a new golden “Australian era” and dominate tennis in the same way that Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have over the past decade.
“I hope so. Let’s hope so,” Jasika said.
“Can’t really say anything too early. I guess we’ll have to see.”
Inspired by Australia’s rich tennis tradition and modern-day greats like Cash and Pat Rafter, Jasika said he started learning tennis a bit like Don Bradman began his cricket – by hitting the ball against a wall.
His tenacity paid off big time in New York, where, on his his first visit, Jasika brought down a bunch of seeds in a remarkable unbeaten 11-match campaign in singles and doubles.
He looked completely gone on Sunday after coughing up two double-faults to gift Halys, the reigning European champion and world’s fourth-ranked junior, the chance to serve out the singles final.
Jasika, though, won 17 of the next 18 points to seize command.
“I just stuck in there, I guess,” he said.
“This week has been unreal for me. Just sticking in and hanging in got me through a few matches, so I kept it in my head and I hung in and kept fighting.”
He won the doubles final on Saturday with Japanese partner Naoki Nakagawa and the twin wins matches Kyrgios’s rare feat from last year’s Australian Open.