New South Wales’ James Duckworth took on South Australia’s Luke Saville in the Australian Open wildcard playoff final.
Duckworth got the first break of serve at 1-0 to jump to a 2-0 lead. Duckworth held that advantage and then was able to serve out the set to win 6-3.
Saville turned things around in the second set and had a set point on the Duckworth serve at 2-5. He then failed to serve out the set at 5-3 to see Duckworth get back on serve at 4-5.
The South Australian took advantage of a few Duckworth unforced errors to earn a breakpoint at Ad and 5-6. A big ace from Duckworth saved one, then another error from the Queenslander gave Saville a third set point. This time Duckworth just missed his first serve ace, then he hit an easy slice shot wide to hand the set to Saville.
Saville moved out to a 3-0 lead under cloudy skies. Play was delayed for a short time as the lines were dried.
At 4-2 with Saville serving he double-faulted to concede the game and see the set back on serve. Games went with serve to 5-5. Duckworth jumped out to 0-30 before seeing Saville double fault to hand Duckworth three break points. Saville handed the break to James Duckworth with another double fault.
The former world no. 82 won his next service game to complete a turnaround from 4-1 down and facing break points to go behind two breaks. He took the third set 7-5.
At 3-3 in the fourth set, the players were forced from the court as rain fell in Melbourne. Saville was serving when the players resumed play and he fell behind 0-30 after some unforced errors. A big serve got him to 15-30 before another unforced error game Duckworth two break points. This time it was Duckworth who made the error. The next points saw Saville in good net position but he could not put away some makeable volleys before seeing Duckworth lob to force an error and claim a break.
Duckworth moved to within one game of claiming his spot in the 2019 Australian Open main draw. Saville held serve to force his opponent to serve for the wildcard. Duckworth failed to convert his match points and saw Saville break back to see the score at 5-5 after a Duckworth double fault.
With Saville serving Duckworth again broke for a 6-5 lead only to see Saville hit back to take the set to a tiebreaker.
Saville opened the serving and fell behind after a badly missed double fault that he framed. Duckworth served big to force an error as he took a 2-0 lead. An error from Duckworth gave back the minibreak. Saville hit a forehand winner to get back level at 2-2.
It was all downhill from there for Saville as he lost the next five points to see James Duckworth claim the wildcard. At the end of the match, Duckworth sat in his chair and showed how much it meant to him. The final score was Duckworth’s 6-3, 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(2).
“There were definitely times over the last few years when I thought maybe I’d never play tennis again, let alone the Australian Open,” said Duckworth.
“It was tough sitting on the sidelines and going through so much rehab and spending so much time on the operating table as well. So to be able to get back is just a dream come true.
“I’ve obviously been through a lot over the last couple of years and to be able to play my home Grand Slam again – which in my opinion is the best tournament in the world, the support you get here is incredible – is just an unbelievable feeling.”
For Luke Saville, it is a missed opportunity as he will now have to fight it out on the ITF tour to work up the rankings. He currently sits at 473.
The Australian summer of tennis kicks off with the Hopman Cup in Perth commencing on 29 December and the Brisbane International which starts on 31 December.
Alex Bolt  d Aleksandar Vukic [WC] 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(5)
Akira Santillan  d Jacob Grills 6-1, 7-5, 6-4
Dayne Kelly d Max Purcell  4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3
Luke Saville [WC] d Bradley Mousley 6-3, 6-4, 6-4
Rinky Hijikata [WC] d Andrew Harris  6-7(6), 6-2, 7-5, 6-7(8),6-3
James Duckworth d Blake Ellis 5-7, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2
Maverick Banes  d Christopher O’Connell 6-4, 7-6(3), 6-0
John-Patrick Smith  d Jeremy Beale 6-2, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3
Maverick Banes  d John-Patrick Smith  6-4, 6-7(3), 1-6, 6-0, 6-2
Luke Saville d Dayne Kelly 7-5, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(3)
Alex Bolt  d Akira Santillan  6-2, 6-7(6), 6-2, 6-0
James Duckworth  d Rinky Hikikata 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3
James Duckworth  d Maverick Banes  6-7(4), 7-5, 6-1, 6-3
Luke Saville d Alex Bolt  6-2, 6-4, 6-1
James Duckworth  d Luke Saville 6-3, 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(2)