Ash and Alex show kicks off Open season for fresh-faced Aussies
For a decade, hopes of a homegrown Australian Open champion have rested on — and faded with — the stuttering Sam Stosur, at-times lackadaisical Bernard Tomic and combustible Nick Kyrgios.
This year brings fresh-faced hopes in 19-year-old Alex de Minaur and Ash Barty, 22, who yesterday led a charge of Australians into the second round at Melbourne Park.
Barty’s campaign started with the briefest blip when she dropped the opening two games to Luksika Kumkhum from Thailand. But the 15th seed soon regained her brilliance to win 6-2 6-2 last night. John Millman became the eighth Australian victor on a bright opening day for the host nation, beating Argentina’s Federico Delbonis 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7-3) 6-2.
De Minaur, Australia’s topranked male player, overcame the demands of playing three matches in as many days to cruise through to the second round. And three young Australian women announced their arrival on the scene with stunning first-round victories.
The past 72 hours have been a whirlwind for 19-year-old De Minaur, who proved too talented for Portugal’s Pedro Sousa, in his third match in as many days, having won two matches on the same day to claim a maiden tour title in Sydney. Complaints about having to play on the opening day of the Open were long forgotten as De Minaur declared he was “stoked” with his victory. “This is why you put in the hard yards in the preseason, to be able to back it up day in and day out,” he said.
A trio of young women, Astra Sharma, Zoe Hives and Kimberley Birrell enjoyed the biggest moments of their careers yesterday.
Five years ago, Sharma moved from Perth to Tennessee on a tennis scholarship. At the time, a career as an orthopaedic surgeon appeared more likely than slicing and dicing with the world’s best tennis players. But a coach at Vanderbilt University noted her athleticism and convinced her a career on the court might be possible. The capacity crowd who witnessed her beat Queenslander Priscilla Hon in a thrilling three-setter would be just as convinced.
Ash Barty celebrates after winning her match against Luksika Kumkhum last night