Smith, Jasika through to AO Play-off final
John-Patrick Smith and Omar Jasika advanced to the final of the Australian Open Play-off after contrasting victories on Friday at Melbourne Park.
Fifth seed John-Patrick Smith has moved through to his second AO Play-off final after seeing off the challenge of Blake Mott in four sets on Friday.
After three competitive yet scratchy sets at Melbourne Park, Smith stormed through the fourth to win 7-6(2) 7-5 6-7(4) 6-0.
Smith, who reached the final of this event in 2014 before falling to Jordan Thompson 9-7 in the fifth set, will have another shot at an Australian Open main draw wildcard when he faces Omar Jasika.
Jasika blitzed through his semifinal against Chris O’Connell, beating the Sydneysider 6-1 6-1 6-2.
“Kept kind of rolling in the fourth. It was good to get off the court quick, save some energy,” Smith said.
“I was very surprised (at the score in the fourth). I think my level picked up – I think I only missed one or two serves in that set, and that really helped me. Plus I had a lot of looks on his serve.”
The first three sets extended three hours, with players mixing impressive shotmaking with loose errors.
Down two sets to love, Mott, the eighth seed, played a strong third-set tiebreak; amping himself up with cries of “Vamos!” he was a study in controlled aggression and produced an ace on set point to send the match into a fourth.
Yet once there, Mott’s wheels fell off.
Smith broke serve immediately and two games later, a flubbed overhead from Mott handed Smith a break point, which the Queenslander converted with a running forehand passing shot up the line for a 3-0 lead.
He raced through the final three games, pleased not to labour too long after having endured a four-set tussle in brutal heat on the opening day of the tournament.
“I just want to stay as fresh as I can and be right for Sunday,” Smith said. “I hope (the second semifinal) is a long match (laughter).”
Long it most certainly wasn’t.
Jasika blazed to a 5-0 lead against a shell-shocked O’Connell in the opening set, and only had his momentum halted by a rain delay early in the second set.
When players returned to the court, Jasika quickly rediscovered his groove, winning four straight games to take a two-sets-to love lead.
O’Connell was a shadow of the player who played such measured, clear tennis to upset Sam Groth in the previous round; the 22-year-old sprayed errors throughout the match.
Jasika, meanwhile, was in the zone, ripping winners and covering the court nimbly.
In the third set he chased down a stop volley and guided a forehand winner up the line to break for 4-2, and closed out the match two games later.
“I played very well today. Chris is a great player and a good friend of mine and he probably didn’t play his best, but I’m happy to get through in straight sets,” Jasika, a US Open junior singles and doubles champion in 2014, said.
“I was surprised how well I played today, it’s always been close whenever I’ve played Chris in the past so I definitely wasn’t expecting to win in straight sets.
“I’ve played JP once before, in the second round of the AO qualifiers. It was one of the longest matches I’ve ever had, I think it lasted about three-and-a-half hours and I finally beat him 12-10 in the third set.
“Hopefully Sunday’s final doesn’t last that long.”
The two men will clash in the best-of-five set finale on Sunday at Melbourne Park, with the winner securing an Australian Open 2017 main draw wildcard.
For more information, visit the Australian Open Play-off homepage.