Jason Kubler: making up for lost time
After years of injury frustration, Jason Kubler arrives in the Australian Open main draw in career-best form – and with a deep appreciation for the opportunity.
Jason Kubler is making up for lost time, enjoying his best performances at age 29 after many frustrating years plagued by injury.
Earning a wildcard into Australian Open 2023 is a fitting reward for the Queenslander, who is coming off a career-best season, and launched his year with impressive runs at the United Cup and Adelaide International.
Wins over world No.27 Daniel Evans (after trailing 5-0 in the second set), and Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ranked 39) at the United Cup helped catapult his own ranking to a career-high No.86.
He backed that up with success in Adelaide, defeating another higher ranked opponent in Argentina’s Tomas Martin Etcheverry.
Kubler last appeared at the Australian Open in 2019, with a combination of factors – including injury – keeping him out of the next 12 majors.
The popular player has defied persistent setbacks to reach a fourth consecutive Grand Slam main draw.
He won matches at both Roland Garros and the US Open last year either side of a brilliant run to the fourth round at Wimbledon.
In typically humble fashion, Kubler thanked Nick Kyrgios over text for giving him the opportunity to play in the recent United Cup, after Kyrgios withdrew from the event the week before.
“I actually messaged him after my match against Evo, [Evans]” Kubler said during the tournament. “I messaged him: ‘thank you so much for the opportunity’. Basically, I hope his body gets better, and we can have a hit before the Australian Open.
“That’s the way I see it. He could have played, and he could have done unbelievably well, like I know we all think he can.
“Fortunately, he gave me the opportunity to play, and I have sort of taken it with both hands and run with it.”
Reflecting on his team experience, Kubler spoke about the growth in his game and his relationships.
“Unbelievable. For me to have two of my best wins here in Australia is really special. But also, off the court it’s been special.
“I got to hang out with all the Australians. Got to get even closer with some of the people I didn’t know as well. But also, strengthen friendships and have the feeling that we have each other’s backs.”
Kubler is confident his foray into the top 100 can spark long-term success, and he is keen to go further.
“I’m very happy that I’m able to start this year with momentum and sort of how I was playing towards the middle to the end of last year,” he said.
He has battled through multiple knee surgeries, dating back to when he was 14, and at one point was instructed by doctors not to play on hard courts.
The injury run at majors goes back to 2011 with the Australian repeatedly having to fight his way back to fitness. He ended an eight-year slam drought in 2018 with an appearance at the Australian Open and Wimbledon as well as a first-round victory at the US Open.
That US Open campaign once again ended with injury, but Kubler fought on, re-entering the Grand Slam circuit with his Roland Garros debut last year.
Victory in the opening round was a significant milestone for a player who has always been quite adept on clay.
Kubler worked with former Wimbledon men’s doubles champion Stephen Huss during the middle stages of 2022, and Huss was delighted to see the Australian’s confidence growing in London.
“The confidence starts with the extra work and professionalism he has been doing and showing,” he said.
“The goal is to continue his growth. Jason’s best tennis is still ahead of him, and he is working towards that.”
Huss spoke about the need for Kubler to be always conscious of his body, given his history of injuries, and make sure he listens to the signs.
“His body and health need to be a priority through planning and periodisation. He is making better decisions with his schedule and planning ahead.
“Success is impossible without health, so he is prioritising that. He is building a more resilient body and giving it a rest when it needs it regardless of circumstance.”
Between March and August of 2022, Kubler went 42-11 across four different surfaces, with a 9-4 record against players in the top 100.
His own ranking has improved from world No.203 to No.81 in that time. The 72 matches he played in 2022 were the most he had played in a single season at any level since 2014.
Last summer, in a sign of things to come for both players, Kubler combined with fellow Australian Jamiee Fourlis to reach the mixed doubles final at Melbourne Park.
If sport eventually gives you what you deserve, we will see plenty more of the popular Jason Kubler at the highest level.
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