Duckworth back on the Open winners list

John Salvado
·3-min read

James Duckworth has taken full advantage of a long overdue change of fortunes at Melbourne Park to book a spot in the second round of the Australian Open for the first time in six long years.

As a former member of the world's top 25, Bosnian Damir Dzumhur is no mug.

But neither does he boast anything like the pedigree of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Lleyton Hewitt, all of whom Sydneysider Duckworth has squared off against in previous first-round encounters at the Open.

Duckworth grabbed the opportunity with both hands, downing Dzumhur 6-3 6-2 6-4 to set up a second-round clash with rising Canadian star Felix Auger-Aliassime.

"I knew (Dzumhur) could play some good tennis but he's probably not playing his best tennis right now," said the 29-year-old Sydneysider.

"I was confident going in, but you never know what's going to happen on the day.

"I'm just happy to get through."

It was Duckworth's first victory at a major since the 2016 US Open, the year before he underwent the first of three rounds of foot surgery.

"It was the worst year and a half I've ever had in my career," said Duckworth.

"I definitely appreciate being healthy and playing these events and winning matches like this a lot more after going through those rough periods."

Duckwort was joined in the second round by countryman Alex Bolt, who fully justified his wildcard by downing Slovakian Norbert Gombos 6-2 6-2 4-6 6-3.

It marked the third straight year that the left-handed South Australian had advanced past the first round at Melbourne Park.

Bolt, 28, acknowledges that the next step in his career is replicating this sort of impressive form on the road, far from family and friends.

"That's obviously something that I've struggled with throughout the years," he said.

"I always seem to play well in my home country.

"Being in Australia, you've got to travel a lot of the year - it's only like a month or so a year that I can play at home.

"The big thing is just day in, day out, bringing the same energy every day."

The first Australian women's winner was Ajla Tomljanovic, who trounced Japan's Misaki Doi 6-2 6-1.

Aside from a run to the fourth round of the French Open back in 2014, the Croatian-born Tomljanovic has struggled to make a mark at the majors, with Monday's victory only her fourth in 10 matches at Melbourne Park.

Kimberly Birrell saved seven match points before succumbing to Canadian Rebecca Marino 6-0 7-6 (11-9).

Men's world No.38 John Millman went down 6-4 6-7 (4-7) 3-6 6-2 6-3 to Frenchman Corentin Moutet.

Wildcard Marc Polmans also finished on the wrong end of a five-setter, losing 4-6 6-3 6-1 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 to Hungarian Marton Fucsovics.