AO Playoff: Duckworth recovers to see off Ellis
Trailing 5-2 in the third set, James Duckworth reeled off seven straight games to completely turn his match against Blake Ellis on its head. He's through to the Australian Open Play-off quarters.
Blake Ellis held the advantage at several stages, but James Duckworth’s experience shone through in their first-round match at the Australian Open Play-off on Monday.
Duckworth, a former world No.82, ran out a 5-7 6-4 7-5 6-2 winner to advance to the quarterfinals, where he will meet Rinky Hijikata.
Hijikata, the 17-year-old wildcard, stunned Andrew Harris in the last match of Monday’s schedule, winning 6-7(6) 6-2 7-5 6-7(8) 6-3 – the only match of the day to extend five sets.
The teenager was riding high on confidence following his victory on Saturday in the final of the 18/u Australian championships and has now built a seven-match winning streak.
In another result late on Monday afternoon, No.1 seed Alex Bolt demonstrated a superior serve throughout his 6-3 6-4 7-6(5) victory over Aleksandar Vukic.
Fifth seed Akira Santillan was the first player through to the quarters thanks to a straight-sets win over Jacob Grills, while No.2 seed John-Patrick Smith subdued Jeremy Beale in four sets.
Ellis, just 19 and ranked 457th, held a 5-2 lead over the 26-year-old Duckworth in the third set, but Duckworth stormed back, winning seven straight games to complete shift the course of the match.
“He served for (the third set) at 5-3 and I was just aware that Blake hasn’t played too many five-setters before. Serving out a set is never easy, and I basically just wanted to put in as many returns in as possible, make it as tough for him as possible, not give him any cheap points,” Duckworth said.
“He made a couple of mistakes. I made a pretty good sort of low pass to break and then I was sort of aware the momentum had really shifted and I sort of rode that pretty well, I felt, through the end of the third and the start of the fourth.
“Was able to step up in that tough period and I think that won me the match, getting through that.”
Duckworth sealed the third set with an ace, broke early in the third set and then secured a double-break lead with a lunging backhand drop volley winner.
He closed out victory in the very next game.
Five months ago, Duckworth entered Wimbledon ranked No.748 and fell in the first round. Yet once the tour moved to hard courts, he reached the third round in Washington DC, won the Cary Challenger title in North Carolina as a qualifier, and advanced to a Challenger semifinal in Tiburon, California.
Those results helped him shave more than 500 places from his ranking; he currently sits at No.244.
“My tennis still I feel like has a bit to go; I’m not where I was (level wise) probably when I was top 100, when I finished 2016,” he assessed.
“But I’m improving. I’ve gotten better for sure over the last six months. When I first started back it was pretty ugly but I feel like I’m slowly getting there.
“Still a bit to work on but I’ve been healthy for six months now, which is the biggest things I think.”
In other results, Luke Saville – a 6-3 6-4 6-4 winner over seventh seed Bradley Mousley – progressed to the Play-off quarters where he will meet Victorian lefty Dayne Kelly, who lost the first set but recovered to upset Max Purcell in four.
Sixth seed Maverick Banes shut out wildcard Christopher O’Connell 6-4 7-6(3) 6-0, and will next meet Smith for a place in the semifinals.
Women’s first-round matches commence on Tuesday at Melbourne Park.