Matosevic survives five-set thriller
Marinko Matosevic was stretched to five sets in his first match at the Australian Open Play-off, the first step in his campaign to return to the top of men's tennis.
Prior to the Australian Open 2016 Play-off, Marinko Matosevic declared himself the favourite to win the event.
“I mean, no offence to the other players in the draw,” he told Fairfax Media, “but I would say I’m clearly the best player and obviously I’ve done the most in tennis out of everyone, and if I’m playing at a decent level I should win it.”
Yet for periods on Monday at Melbourne Park, it looked as if he might fall at the first hurdle.
The No.7 seed was pushed all the way by Maverick Banes, battling for five sets in hot weather before sealing a 3-6 6-1 7-6(3) 4-6 6-3 victory.
“I felt pretty rusty out there,” he admitted.
“I thought my ball striking was really good; just the errors hurt me, otherwise it could have been much easier.
“It was like a test against myself.”
Matosevic is on the comeback trail after a disastrous 2015 in which he was felled by a lingering virus and a stress fracture in his foot and then later a back injury. His ranking – which peaked at No.39 in 2013 and was as high as 83rd in May – has ballooned to No.296.
When his game clicked on Monday, he was superior to Banes in the power and shot-making departments.
Yet he was plagued by inconsistency and wavering focus, struggling to put the gritty Queenslander away.
Nevertheless, he managed to pull his game together when it counted most, forging ahead 3-0 in the final set and closing out the match in three hours and 41 minutes.
“I’ve been doing so much physical work, I feel fresh (although) I played over three hours,” he said.
“A long match has raised my confidence.
“I know I’m (ranked) 200 and something, but I know what I can do. I know how I can play. I feel good … it’s just a matter of staying healthy, first of all, and then raising my level. I know it’s going to take some time, but raising it little by little.”
Next up for Matosevic is third seed Luke Saville, who moved into the Play-off quarterfinals with a four-set victory over Jacob Grills.
Also advancing was top seed James Duckworth, who recovered from the loss of the second set to see off Harry Bourchier in four.
No.2 seed and defending champion Jordan Thompson breezed to a 6-3 6-2 6-1 victory over Matt Reid.
The Australian Open 2016 Play-off runs from 14-20 December at Melbourne Park. Join the conversation on Twitter using #AOPlayoff.