Cairns, QLD, 20 September 2019 | Asher Packman

Blake Mott has cruised into the Cairns International semifinals in his first professional tournament in over two years.

After defeating No.4 seed Dayne Kelly in the opening round, Mott, 23, has looked impressive, easing past Jake Delaney and Brandon Walkin in straight sets.

He will now face second-seed Brydan Klein for a finals berth, after the Brit edged past Frenchman Alexis Musialek, 7-5 4-6 6-3, on Friday.

“I’m feeling really good out there,” Mott said. “Just to get that love of the game back again and to want to compete for every point.”

“After being out for two and bit years, it’s always a question mark coming back,” he added. “With every match, it’s an opportunity to keep growing, keep learning, and get my level back. At the moment, it just feels really good and I’m keeping it simple and taking each point as it comes.

“Being a wildcard this week, I’ve definitely got no expectations, just to go out there, push myself and see how I go. To get through today and give myself another chance tomorrow, that’s just gold.”

Mott peaked at world No.220 in the mid-2017, having earlier that year qualified for the Australian Open to make his Grand Slam main-draw debut.

“I was having a great year, but I just felt like I was burning out a little bit. I was losing the love of it and winning or losing just wasn’t making a huge difference to me. That was a bit of a worry at the time, with mental wellbeing such a huge focus with athletes these days, so it was something I took really seriously. I just wanted to sort out some of that stuff and just get away from the sport and try to find some answers.

“I was struggling with a few things like my neck and shoulder as well, which I’m still sort of managing on the way back. So, it was a combination of factors.

“It was always on the radar, though, to come back. Given the injuries, I had an ATP-protected ranking, so I knew I could potentially use that within the three-year period that they offer. But I didn’t have a timeframe on it or any rush. I just felt the timing was great to come back now.”

The remaining semifinal features top-seeded local, Maverick Banes, who progressed courtesy of a retirement; Bradley Mousley unable to continue with Banes ahead 7-5 4-2. The Queenslander will face Ukrainian Vladyslav Orlov, the No.3 seed showing a little too much for Thomas Fancutt (No.6), drawing away to win 6-4 6-1.

The women’s event has run according to script with the top four seeds all reaching the semifinal stage. West Australian top seed, Maddison Inglis, led the way with a straight sets victory over Japan’s Haruna Arakawa (No.8) while Victorian Olivia Rogowska (No.2) outclassed her Slovakian opponent Tereza Mihalikova (No.6) 6-3 6-3. She will now face another Slovak in No.4 seed Zuzana Zlochova, while Inglis finds herself up against American Asia Muhammad (No.3), a winner over Japanese qualifier Yui Chikaraishi.

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