Whittington survives in five
Top seed Andrew Whittington endured a brutal five-set opening to his Australian Open Play-off campaign, eventually downing Max Purcell on a hot Melbourne day.
Andrew Whittington was given an almighty scare before securing a quarterfinal berth at the Australian Open-Playoff at Melbourne Park.
On a hot, sunny Monday, the No.1 seed – struggling with a chest illness – was pushed to five sets by teenager Max Purcell yet ultimately prevailed 6-3 6-3 4-6 3-6 6-2.
He will next face fifth seed John-Patrick Smith, a 3-6 6-4 6-4 6-1 winner over Maverick Banes.
“By the fifth set you’re mentally and physically feeling it of course – you’ve just got to try and stay as strong as possible, back yourself. (Know) you’ve done the work,” Whittington said.
“And I think that showed in the end in the fifth set for me.”
Whittington, who entered the Play-off after a productive five-week training block on home soil in Melbourne, began strongly against Purcell, storming through the first two sets thanks to big serving and a heavy forehand which bullied the 18-year-old around the court.
Yet Purcell – who rose to prominence in 2016 with a Challenger title in Gimcheon, Korea, which he achieved by beating Whittington in the final – hit back.
He capitalised on some loose errors from the Victorian to secure a double break, and with the third set in hand he broke Whittington twice in the fourth to send the match into a decider.
Despite looking physically distressed and playing in his first ever five-set match, Whittington impressively wrested back momentum.
“The fifth set obviously changed again. I had a pretty good start, getting up 4-0, and then I think my game rose to another level and he maybe dropped off a little bit. Very nice to just get through in the end,” Whittington said.
This time last year, Whittington was ranked 592nd. He now sits at a career-high ranking of No.170 following a year in which he won six Futures titles and won his first ever ATP main draw match – he saved four match points against Luca Vanni to reach the second round in Shenzhen, a moment which he described as the highlight of his season.
“I made a decision at the end of last year I’d focus more on singles. I did a lot more of the one-percenters really well, and I think that’s helped me throughout this year,” he said.
“To have six titles and a ranking of 170, it’s pretty good if you ask me.”
The 23-year-old will face Smith in their first career meeting on Wednesday.
In other results, Gavin Van Peperzeel beat an injured Luke Saville, who retired when trailing two-sets-to-one in their first-round match.
Fourth seed Marc Polmans was clinical in his dismissal of 18/u Australian champion Scott Jones; the 19-year-old Polmans reached the quarterfinals with a 6-2 6-4 6-0 win.
For more information, visit the Australian Open Play-off homepage.