Launceston, Tasmania, 28 January 2019 | Asher Packman

Blake Ellis has opened his campaign with a straight-sets win over fellow Australian Chris O’Connell at the Neville-Smith Forest Products Launceston International on Monday.

“We’ve played a couple of times before and he’s beaten me, so it was nice to finally get one back against him,” Ellis said.

“It was my first singles win this year, but I’m happy with how I’ve gone in previous tournaments,” he added, underscoring his recent third-round doubles appearance with Alexei Popyrin at the recent Australian Open as the highlight.

“It was the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of and it was a really good experience,” the 20-year-old said. “My first main draw at a Slam so a little bit of nerves but we managed to get through our first two matches and put up a good fight in our last one. I couldn’t ask for much more than that, we gelled together really well.”

Turning his attention to the task at hand, Ellis now faces the top seed in Launceston, South African Lloyd Harris, a recent qualifier at the Australian Open.

“He’s had some really good results lately so it’s going to be a tough match,” Ellis said. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Waiting beyond that will be the winner of Italian No.13 seed Gian Marco Moroni and local favourite, Harry Bourchier. The Tasmanian wildcard advanced after South Australian Bradley Mousley was forced to retire in the second set of their opening-round match on Monday – he will now be looking to repeat his maiden ATP Challenger quarterfinal effort from Burnie last week.

Victorian Andrew Harris and South Australian Luke Saville also made safe passage to the second round on Monday, Harris given a scare by rising Sydney teen Rinky Hijikata before progressing 1-6 7-6(5) 6-3 and Saville cruising past Russian Alexander Zhurbin 6-2 6-2.

Tuesday will see a slew of Aussies take to the court, with Max Purcell facing Burnie winner Steven Diez of Canada, Burnie finalist Maverick Banes taking on Japan’s Makoto Ochi and No.4 seed Marc Polmans against Frenchman Tristan Lamasine. Wildcard Jacob Grills and Akira Santillan will also be in action.

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