Nice, France, 21 May 2015 |

In the same week last year, James Duckworth was working his way through French Open qualifying, his hard work rewarded with entry into the main draw and a four-set showing against accomplished claycourter Leonardo Mayer.

This week, the fifth-ranked Aussie man has already progressed to the Nice quarterfinals – his second on the ATP Tour this year, meaning that Duckworth is well placed to improve on the milestone top 100 ranking he achieved in March.

Wins over Frances Tiafoe and Quentin Halys – the first required three sets and the latter two tiebreaks – showed the resilience that’s become something of a trademark for the workmanlike Duckworth.

At Brisbane earlier this year, he saved a match point to outclass the vastly more experienced Jarkko Nieminen, pointing at the time to the progressive improvements that have made him increasingly competitive in the game’s upper echelons.

“I feel like, you know, I’ve gradually just been improving my game over the years. I’ve been sort of knocking on the door for a little bit now,” said 23-year-old Duckworth, who also defeated world No.21 Gilles Simon for his biggest career win in Brisbane.

“I think just that really good pre season under my belt and working on a few areas of my game has got me to this place.”

Duckworth, who is coached by Ben Mathias, believes that aggression is among the qualities that are leading to such performances. “We really did a lot of specific style of play training. I think I’ve just gotten better at executing those patterns,” he said.

He’ll need that aggression against Coric, who at 18-years-old and world No.53 is the best-ranked teenager in the men’s game. But while the Croat can count Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray among the big scalps already claimed in his short career, Duckworth can also take to the court in the most positive state of mind.

Among the rewards for Duckworth’s hard work in 2015 are qualifying for Masters-levels events at Indian Wells and Miami, as well as a five-set progression at the Australian Open. Nice is the 12th event he’s contested on the ATP Tour this year.

With Duckworth’s objectives to break into the top 100 and gain direct main draw entry in the French Open and Wimbledon already ticked off, the season is playing out superbly.

Win against Coric or not, he’ll almost certainly enter Roland Garros inside the world’s top 80 and with a penchant for competing on slow clay, it’s a venue at which Duckworth, a junior boys semifinalist in 2010, could gain more traction in his career-best season.