Melbourne Park, 7 December 2010 | Tim Rose

Today’s round-robin match between third seed Maverick Banes (Qld) and fifth-seeded Luke Saville of South Australia was always looking like it would decide the first of Group C’s quarterfinal qualifiers, with both players winning their first-round matches yesterday.

Their tussle this morning didn’t disappoint, with Saville clawing back from the brink of defeat to clinch a thrilling win over three sets, with the tense third-set tiebreaker extending out to 13-11.

By match’s end a handy crowd had gathered courtside to watch the 1-6 7-5 7-6(11) win, which stretched over three hours.

Photos: Optus 18s Australian Championships

Queenslander Banes was all over his opponent in the first set, cruising to a 5-0 lead by taking advantage of the error-ridden Saville. It was fitting then that Banes took the first set from a Saville double fault. Both players struggled to serve in the warm and gusty conditions; at one point, the wind picked up an umbrella in the players’ rest area and dumped it on a neighbouring court.

After trading breaks early in the second set, all seemed lost for Saville, with Banes having four separate match points in the 10th game. Somehow, the South Australian hung on before breaking serve again to take the set 7-5.

The decider began in a similar vein to what had come before, with four consecutive breaks of serve as the conditions played havoc with the ball tosses of the players. With Banes twice receiving treatment for quadriceps soreness, neither player was able to maintain any advantage as it seemed that simply holding serve could decide the match.

With the set locked at 6-all, Banes gained a 4-love lead in the tiebreaker only to face severe cramps. The standard of tennis lifted as Saville and Banes ran each other off the court, the Queenslander gamely trying to shorten points with some heavy forehand hitting.

Banes earned yet another match point from a double-fault, only to miss a makeable volley that would have sealed the win. Both players earned one match point after another, only to somehow allow the other back in; just as Saville looked like doing the impossible, Banes pulled off the shot of the match, clubbing a forehand winner to take it to 11-all.

By this stage Banes was severely impeded, unable to serve at times due to his cramping, while Saville took the opportunity to stretch at every changeover.

A backhand winner down the line sealed an incredible comeback for the likable Saville, both players clearly exhausted.

The South Australian, who recently won the Burr medal as his state’s best male player, said that conditions made life difficult on court.

“Mav had a bit of a sore quad at the end there so he struggled serving a little bit in the tiebreak there, and most of the third set and I was cramping a little bit as well,” he said.

“It was a bit of a grudge match out there, [to see] who could last the longest. It was really swirly and it was affecting both of our ball tosses. It’s really tough to time the serves and get a high percentage of first serves in.”

A member of Australia’s victorious Junior Davis Cup team in 2009, Saville said that winning against adversity made today’s effort all the more special.

“I knew I had to hang in there, Maverick’s a good player. I saved I can’t even remember how many match points, but it’s always good to win a match against the odds. The tiebreak there was 13-11, so it pulled a bit of a crowd out, I’m very happy to get through,” the relieved Saville said.

With another round-robin match to play, the Optus 16s finalist from last year has already achieved a career-best result in the Optus 18s in 2010.

“I’ve played [the 18s in the] two years previous to this one and I’ve only won one match those two years, and now I’ve won two this year so I’m very happy. Obviously there’s another match in my pool but I want to qualify and get to the quarterfinal stage and hopefully push on from there.

“It’s a tough field and no match is going to be easy this year, so I’ll keep on working hard and keep on fighting.”

He now plays New South Wales’ Simon Ede, while Banes will play fellow Queenslander Luke Immanuel Harvey, with results from both of those matches to finalise the quarterfinals qualifiers.

Draws and scores
18s boys’ singles draws and scores
18s girls’ singles draws and scores
18s boys’ doubles draws and scores
18s girls’ doubles draws and scores