Adelaide, South Australia, 12 January 2022 | Vivienne Christie

Adelaide is proving a memorable setting for Aleksander Vukic. Following a first top-50 win over Alexander Bublik earlier this week, the world No.160 today secured a first ATP-level quarterfinal appearance in the South Australian capital.

Vukic achieved the career milestone with a 6-4 7-5 win over Steve Johnson – who, in a twist of sorts, had outclassed the Australian in last week’s tournament.

An improved ability to focus on important points, said Vukic, has been a factor in his progress.

“I feel like I’ve been present a lot of the time, a lot of the points,” Vukic related. “Kind of making it difficult for people to get into my service games. I do think I’m hitting my second serve better. That’s one thing I did focus on last week.”

The 25-year-old indeed relied on some solid serving to outclass his American opponent, recording 16 aces, only two double faults and not facing a single break point in the one-hour, 16-minute encounter.

Vukic also capitalised superbly on the opportunities he created, with breaks in the third game of the first and in the 11th game of the second providing the critical turning points.

The Sydneysider next faces Thanasi Kokkinakis and relishes the high-stakes encounter with his fellow Australian.

“Thanasi has been playing great. I’ve spent a lot of time with him this last year,” said Vukic. “He went through some ups and downs like we all did. He’s playing really well right now.”

Vukic is delighted to achieve a career-best result on home soil, particularly after the challenges of competing in the pandemic-affected era of the past two seasons.

“It’s really nice to be able to be back in Australia. We just feel so comfortable here. We’re just trying to make the most of it and hopefully keep it going,” he said.

Buoyed by a career-best performance in Adelaide, a grateful Vukic is especially determined to make the most of his wildcard opportunity at  the Australian Open next week.

“I can’t think of a better preparation, to be honest. I’m grateful getting the wild cards in these events. It’s giving me the opportunity to play these events, try to make the most of it,” he said,

“I’m going to try and focus on every match here, see where I can go from here, and next week give it another shot at Aussie, at the main one. But my full focus is this tournament for this week.”

There was also an impressive result for local players in the doubles, with wildcards Aaron Addison and Thomas Fancutt upsetting top seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury in a three-set battle.

The Australian duo now face Ariel Behar and Gonzalo Escobar, from Urugay and Ecuador respectively, in the quarterfinals.

Men’s singles, second round
[WC] Aleksandar Vukic (AUS) d [Q] Steve Johnson (USA) 6-4 7-5
 [WC] Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS) d [2] John Isner (USA)

Women’s singles, second round
[4] Tamara Zidansek (SLO) d [WC] Maddison Inglis (AUS) 6-2 6-1

Men’s doubles, second round
[WC] Aaron Addison (AUS)/Thomas Fancutt (AUS) d [1] Rajeev Ram (USA)/ Joe Salisbury (GBR) 6-7(4) 6-4 [10-8]
[3] Wesley Koolhof (NED)/Neal Skupski (GBR) d Luke Saville (AUS)/John-Patrick Smith (AUS) 7-6(2) 7-6(3)

Men’s singles, quarterfinal
[WC] Aleksandar Vukic (AUS) v [WC] Thanasi Kokkinakis

Men’s doubles, quarterfinal
[WC] Aaron Addison (AUS)/Thomas Fancutt (AUS) v (6) Ariel Behar (URU) / Gonzalo Escobar [ECU]