Emotions run high as Mott tops day of Aussie success
Weeks after a broken wrist required surgery, Blake Mott is among four Australian men to claim opening-round wins in Australian Open 2020 qualifying.
On a day where emotions ran high as a myriad of Australian players rode the wave of home support to score upset victories, it was Blake Mott’s smile which shone the brightest.
Mott’s story is arguably the most dramatic of anyone at Australian Open 2020. Having resumed his professional career in September after two years out of the game, the 23-year-old broke his left wrist while competing in last month’s Wildcard Play-off.
Remarkably, he recovered sufficiently to enter the qualifying rounds this week as a wildcard, beginning his campaign with a 6-3 6-4 upset of Portuguese 27th seed Pedro Sousa.
“Mate, it’s truly amazing,” a visibly delighted Mott said. “I know I can take it to some of the best guys in the world, it’s just about getting out here competing in this environment and building momentum. I think this is only my fifth tournament since I’ve come back, so to gain that confidence against a player of his level this early, really excites me for the year ahead.”
Mott’s victory over the world No.139 was all the more impressive given that he only began hitting backhands again barely a fortnight ago. He admitted that merely being able to compete at Australian Open 2020 was always ‘touch and go.’
“I always just remained really positive,” he said. “It was a really ambitious goal, but I was dedicated to it 110% and I literally took it day by day. The moment I came out of surgery four weeks ago, I had this mindset of just getting it a little per cent better every single day.
“Whether that was being disciplined and keeping it still or moving an extra finger, And before I knew it, it was three days to go, I was hitting backhands and ready to play!”
Having originally quit tennis in 2017, Mott said that he has been inspired by the success of childhood friend Ash Barty, who took her own break from professional tennis before returning to achieve Grand Slam glory at last year’s French Open.
“I think Ash’s story is one for the ages a little bit,” he said. “It’s really inspiring to any player who feels like they need some time away, to decide what they really want to do, and to rekindle the fire. I think everyone needs to find that on their own journey.
“For me I came to a place where I really wanted to make the best out of myself, for me, and that was the main motivation for starting hitting tennis balls again.”
It was a good day for local wildcards with Luke Saville and Aleksandar Vukic also scoring surprise wins. Vukic knocked out 11th seed Thomas Fabbiano 7-6(2), 6-4, while Saville continued his superb start to the year with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Denmark’s Mikael Torpegaard, a player ranked 107 places higher.
“I feel like I’ve been playing well last few weeks and getting an opportunity from Tennis Australia for a wildcard is really humbling, it shows they’ve got belief in me still, so very happy I performed the way I did,” Saville said.
The former Wimbledon junior champion began 2020 by claiming a futures title in New Zealand before winning the Canberra Challenger doubles with Max Purcell and he feels things are finally clicking for him.
“Starting the year with two titles out of two, it’s tough to top that,” said the 26-year-old Saville. “I’ve come here with a lot of confidence, and I’m looking to do damage here. I feel like I’m playing my best career tennis right now, so I’m just really looking forward to letting it rip this week and seeing where it gets me.”
While Matt Ebden, Jason Kubler and Bernard Tomic all lost in straight sets, Purcell made it four Australian men’s winners on qualifying day one with a 7-6(2) 6-7(4) 6-4 win over Argentina’s Andrea Collarini which turned into an epic slugfest in front of a captivated audience on Court 5.
The 21-year-old had three match points on the Collarini serve late in the second set, but after missing all of them, he had to regroup before eventually managing to subdue his hard-hitting opponent.
“I was pretty proud of how I composed myself at the start of the third,” Purcell said. “I’ve been doing a ton of fitness, my diet’s been unbelievable, I just knew that I’m fitter than this guy, and if it goes three, I think I’m gonna come out on top. So I kept thinking that, and I got through.”