Mitchell, Thompson to meet in Play-off final
UPDATE: Ben Mitchell has won through to his second straight Australian Open Play-off final, and will meet Jordan Thompson in the decider on Sunday.
Ben Mitchell has won through to his second straight Australian Open Play-off final after a comprehensive victory over Luke Saville in Friday’s semifinals.
The Queenslander, seeded third, romped to a 6-2 6-4 6-1 win, and will meet fourth seed Jordan Thompson, in the final, who later on Friday recorded an upset 7-6(7) 6-4 2-6 6-3 victory over No.1 seed John-Patrick Smith.
“I’m happy with the way things are going but I’m not getting too ahead of myself, I’ve still got the most important match coming up,” Mitchell said on court following victory.
“I hung tough (today), I really feel like I’ve been winning the big points here – probably the biggest part of tennis – so that’s good.”
Indeed, it was Mitchell establishing the ascendancy early, scoring the first service break of the match in the fifth game and clinching another en route to pocketing the first set.
His powerful crosscourt forehand was the money shot, and it either won points outright or set up the knockout blow on several occasions.
Saville, the eighth seed, began to find range in the second set, but was his own worst enemy in the seventh game, double faulting to fall behind 0-40 and then dropping serve two points later as Mitchell won an exciting all-court rally with a lunging volley winner.
When asked about his improved net coverage after the match, Mitchell revealed it was an area of his game that he’d been targeting.
“My coach will like you saying that,” he laughed. “(I’ve) been playing a bit of doubles with Thanasi Kokkinakis and I think that’s improved my volleys, but there’s still a bit of a way to go.”
With the break in hand, Mitchell forged to a two-sets-to-love lead. And from there, the wind disappeared from Saville’s sails.
The defending AO Play-off champion snared breaks in the third and fifth games to build a 5-1 lead, and after a disastrous game from Saville – from 15-15, he double-faulted, committed an air-swing on a smash, and then double-faulted once more – the match came to a quick end.
“I think I served well today and I guess I’ll be feeling pretty fresh for the final, which is huge,” Mitchell said.
Thompson one win away from AO main draw
In the second semifinal, Thompson, 19, dominated his more experienced opponent with his superior power and more aggressive court positioning.
He made the early running in the match, throwing up an exquisite forehand lob winner to snatch the first break and a 3-1 lead, and although Smith recovered to send the set into a tiebreak and recovered from an early mini-break deficit, Thompson still managed to remain focused to pocket the opener.
The pair split the next two sets but in the fourth it was all Thompson, who returned to court following a bathroom break vowing to attack more after dropping the third set.
“I thought JP’s obviously got a pretty good serve, but I was holding my own as well,” he reflected. “I came back and thought I’d be a little more aggressive, and I was.”
Thompson skipped out to a 5-2 lead, yet faltered on his first attempt serving for the match. But it was merely a temporary setback; in the very next game, he forced errors from Smith’s racquet to move ahead 0-40, and closed out the match with a running backhand passing shot winner off a short volley.
“I was extremely happy, I was jumping for joy … was really really happy to get that break,” he said.
“It’s going to be really tough (in the final). Mitch (Ben Mitchell) is playing really well, I don’t think he’s dropped a set all week. He’s not missing a ball out there.”
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