Melbourne, Australia, 22 January 2012 | Matt Trollope
A junior Wimbledon winner, Australian national champion and twice a runner-up at the Australian Open juniors, South Australian Luke Saville has added yet another string to his bow – the mantle of world No.1 junior.
Saville headlines this week’s Australian Open junior event as the top seed and the biggest name among a cast of talented and hopeful Australians descending on Melbourne Park.
Having captured the top ranking on 2 January, the 17-year-old Saville says he does not mind the pressure and spotlight associated with entering a Grand Slam event as the favourite.
“Obviously I’ve got the best ranking of anyone but I train with a lot of the (Australian) boys, and some of the boys I train with they’re in my age (group), all (have) a very good shot as well. I think that while I’m the top seed there’s a lot of other Aussie guys in the mix to win the title,” he said.
“Winning the Wimbledon juniors put me in a good position to eventually get to No.1 … at the start of the year that was a huge goal for me and after I won a Grand Slam that made it really possible.
“I’m feeling good for the juniors tomorrow.”
Saville brings some solid form into the Australian Open. He finished 2011 by triumphing at a pair of ITF junior events in Asia, before coming to Australia and gaining valuable experience at ATP level with wildcards into the qualifying events at Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne Park.
Testing himself against seniors is something that Saville will increasingly look to do throughout 2012. He will continue his transition from junior to senior tennis with more play at Futures tournaments, while limiting his junior schedule to Grand Slam events.
He says that if he captures the Australian Open junior title, he may push harder to hold onto the No.1 junior ranking for the remainder of the year as this would be “another great achievement”. But his main goal for 2012 is to build his ATP World Tour ranking.
“I’m not getting too caught up in the junior results … there’s the Futures that I want to transition into to, and at the end of the day it’s the ATP ranking that’s the main goal. The juniors only lasts for a little bit of time,” he said.
Yet before all of that, the immediate focus is on the junior event at Melbourne Park. His form at the Traralgon International tune-up this week was extremely encouraging, despite the fact he squandered match points in the final against Canadian Filip Peliwo before going down.
Saville says he is not paying too much attention to that missed opportunity, instead focusing on the fact that the tournament provided him with several matches to groove his game for the big event.
And as a runner-up at last year’s junior event, the South Australian clearly knows how to win on the blue Plexicushion at Melbourne Park.
“Everyone that I saw a year ago has improved a lot since then. It’s an extremely tough field, and I’ll bring a lot of confidence out of making a (major) final and winning a Slam as well,” he said.
“I kind of know what it feels like to go deep in a Slam but I also know what it feels like to lose first round at a slam (Saville fell in the first round at the 2011 US Open). I’ve got to really dig deep in the early few rounds and try and get on a roll a bit.
“I’m hitting a good ball at the moment and I’m going in with a lot of confidence right now.”
Saville will begin his campaign with a first round match against Israel’s Or Ram-Harel, scheduled for 11.00am on Court 6 tomorrow.