Tokyo, Japan, 25 July 2021 | Leigh Rogers

James Duckworth has made a dream Olympic Games debut, advancing to the second round in Tokyo.

The 29-year-old had to dig deep to overcome Slovak Lukas Klein today, recording a 5-7 6-3 7-6(4) victory in their first-round clash.

World No.246 Klein made a strong start and established a 7-5 2-0 lead. The 23-year-old hit 12 winners to Duckworth’s three in the opening set, heaping the pressure on his higher-ranked opponent.

But Duckworth’s experience proved telling, with the world No.77 fighting back to win six of the next seven games and level the match at one-set apiece.

The Brisbane-based Duckworth handled the humid conditions best in the deciding set to clinch victory after two hours and 18 minutes on court. Under immense pressure, Duckworth impressively lost only five points on serve in the final set.

“I felt like I was the better player in the third set,” Duckworth said. “I couldn’t quite sneak a break, all I was thinking was trying to take it one point at a time, make as many returns as possible and then on my serve land first serves, which I was able to do. I was able to get off to a good start in the tiebreak, serve well and hang on in the end.”

Duckworth now faces 12th seeded Russian Karen Khachanov in the second round.

“It’s exciting to win for my country,” Duckworth said. “You don’t play with Australia on your back too often, and to get a win in this event is really cool.”

Today’s victory sees Duckworth join a small group of 11 Australian men to win an Olympic Games singles match since tennis was reintroduced as an official Olympic sport in 1988.

Australian men to win Olympic Games singles matches 
Player Results
Darren Cahill Second round (1988)
Wally Masur Second round (1988)
Todd Woodbridge Third round (1996)
Jason Stoltenberg Second round (1996)
Mark Philippoussis Third round (1996), third round (2000)
Pat Rafter Second round (2000)
Wayne Arthurs Second round (2004)
Lleyton Hewitt Second round (2008), third round (2012)
John Millman Second round (2016), second round (2020)
James Duckworth Second round (2020)
Max Purcell Second round (2020)

With John Millman and Max Purcell also advancing to the second round in Tokyo, it marks the best effort by an Australian men’s singles tennis team at the Olympics since 1996.

Purcell made the most of an alternate spot in the draw, upsetting ninth-seeded Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime today.

> READ: Purcell scores biggest career win in Olympic debut

Luke Saville was a late addition to the draw too, following the withdrawal of Hungary’s Marton Fucsovics. However, seventh-seeded Hubert Hurkacz of Poland proved too strong in their first-round clash and recorded a 6-2 6-4 victory.

Earlier today, Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo shocked Ash Barty in the first round of the women’s singles competition.

The world No.48 recorded a 6-4 6-3 win against the Wimbledon champion. It is the first time in modern Olympic history that the top-seeded woman has lost in the opening round.

> READ: Barty shocked in Olympic singles debut

Barty now turns her attention to doubles, where she has progressed to the second round alongside Storm Sanders.

Aussies in action – Tokyo Olympics

Men’s singles, first round
James Duckworth (AUS)
d Lukas Klein (SVK) 5-7 6-3 7-6(4)
(Alt) Max Purcell (AUS) d [9] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) 6-4 7-6(2)
[7] Hubert Hurkacz (POL) d (Alt) Luke Saville (AUS) 6-2 6-4

Women’s singles, first round
Ajla Tomljanovic (AUSd Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ) 7-5 3-2 ret.
Sara Sorribes Tormo (ESP) d [1] Ash Barty (AUS) 6-4 6-3

Men’s doubles, first round
Oliver Marach/Philipp Oswald (AUT) d John Millman/Luke Saville (AUS) 7-5 6-2
Austin Krajicek/Tennys Sandgren (USA) d John Peers/Max Purcell (AUS) 3-6 7-6(5) [10-5]

Women’s doubles, first round
Ellen Perez/Sam Stosur (AUS) d Jelena Ostapenko/Anastasija Sevastova (LAT) 4-6 6-1 [10-5]

Men’s singles, second round
James Duckworth (AUS) v [12] Karen Khachanov (RUS)
John Millman (AUS)
v [16] Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP)
(Alt) Max Purcell (AUS) v Dominik Koepfer (GER)

Women’s singles, second round
Ajla Tomljanovic (AUSv [4] Elina Svitolina (UKR)

Women’s doubles, second round
[6] Ash Barty/Storm Sanders (AUS) v Xu Yifan/Yang Zhaoxuan (CHN)
Ellen Perez/Sam Stosur (AUS) v Monica Niculescu/Raluca Olaru (ROU)

> VIEW: Full Olympic Games draws