Bernard Tomic and Eugenie Bouchard will begin their quests for a spot in the main draw of the Australian Open on Monday at the grand slam qualifying tournament in Doha.
Tomic’s path back to the Australian Open has led him to the capital city of Qatar, where he will be among 11 Australian men attempting to qualify for their home grand slam.
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Nine Australian women, including Ellen Perez and the returning Kimberly Birrell, will feature in the equivalent event in Dubai, with a $100,000 spot in the first round of the Australian Open up for grabs.
Melbourne-based Blake Mott was a first-round casualty on Sunday, outplayed by Sweden’s Elias Ymer 6-4 6-3.
Tomic faces a taxing qualifying path towards making another appearance in the Australian Open (beginning February 8), with 16 places up for grabs from the 128-strong field in the middle east.
The mercurial 28-year-old Tomic, who's dropped to 228 in the world after only playing nine matches on the ATP Tour last year, has his work cut out after being drawn in his opening round tie against Slovakia’s Jozef Kovalik, the 14th qualifying seed.
Kovalik, who got into the main draw in Melbourne last year as a lucky loser and engaged Pablo Carreno Busta in a tough four setter before getting beaten in the first round, is currently ranked 131 on the ATP computer, 97 places higher than Tomic.
Yet the Gold Coast-based Tomic, who was forced out of Brisbane's UTR Pro Tennis Series with a back injury last month, will be warmed by the memory of their only previous encounter at the Davis Cup in 2016 when he ran out a winner in straight sets on the grass in Sydney.
Former Wimbledon quarter-finalist Tomic, who like all the qualifiers will have to win three sudden-death matches to make it into the main draw, will face other obstacles should he beat Kovalik.
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There’ll be an Australian guaranteed to make it into the second round of qualifying as 33-year-old Matt Ebden, a former mixed doubles winner in Melbourne, tries to get past Brisbane's Jason Kubler, who won their only previous meeting.
In the women’s draw Sydney's Abbie Myers can savour a high-profile tie with former Wimbledon runner-up Bouchard.
Myers, a 26-year-old wild card from Sydney who's ranked 322 in the world, has never got past the first round of qualifying on three previous occasions.
Bouchard, Canada’s former top-five star, is trying to revive her career down at No.141 on the WTA circuit.
Perez, the world No.235 from Shellharbour, NSW, is seeking to earn her second main draw appearance in Melbourne and will be the first Australian woman in action when she takes on American Caroline Dolehide.
with Yahoo Sport Australia
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