Jason Kubler thrills Australian Open fans in unprecedented scenes

The Aussie continued an opening day to remember for the local contingent at the Australian Open.

Pictured left to right, Aussie legend Lleyton Hewitt and Jason Kubler during his Australian Open first round win.
Aussie legend Lleyton Hewitt was cheering on Jason Kubler during his landmark Australian Open win on Monday. Pic: Getty

Jason Kubler has made it a day to savour for the local contingent at the Australian Open after being rewarded for his perseverance with a drought-breaking career-first win at the Australian Open. The 29-year-old - whose career has been hampered by injuries - outclassed Argentine Sebastian Baez 6-4 6-4 6-4 on Monday to join fellow Australians John Millman and Olivia Gadecki in the second round.

Home fans were rocked by news earlier in the day that Nick Kyrgios had withdrawn from the Australian Open due to a knee injury. However, Kubler helped ease some of the devastation for local supporters with a breakthrough win against a player ranked 40 spots above him in the world rankings.

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"It's the first time I've won here in singles so a bit of nerves but also he's a great opponent and he's a great player," Kubler said. "But I was able to put it together and win those important points. Luckily I was able to serve quite well. So super happy to get through."

Kubler had never progressed to the second round of the Australian Open before Monday, with his watershed moment coming 13 years after he debuted at Melbourne Park as a 16-year-old prodigy. Once described as a "right-handed Rafael Nadal", a succession of knee injuries has cruelled the popular Aussie's career.

Aussie legend and Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt had dubbed the 29-year-old a "dangerous floater" in Melbourne after Kubler upset top-40 rivals Dan Evans and Albert Ramos-Vinolas at the season-opening United Cup in Sydney. On the opening day at Melbourne Park on Monday, the 29-year-old lived up to that hype with an impressive victory that sets up a second round encounter with Russian 18th seed Karen Khachanov on Wednesday.

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"I'm just so happy that I've been able to perform in my home country. Super special," Kubler said after the match. "I got a little run last year in the mixed doubles but hopefully this year I can do something special in the singles."

With little to lose, Kubler is guaranteed yet another rankings rise into the world's top 80 for the first time even if he's defeated by the 2022 US Open semi-finalist. Following Monday's win, Aussie fans flooded social media to congratulate the journeyman on his milestone moment.

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Jason Kubler joins Olivia Gadecki in 2nd round

Having reached the second week at Wimbledon and being Australia's last man standing at the French Open in a breakout grand slam season last year, Kubler is hopeful of bringing down Khachanov. The Aussie says finally shrugging off his injury hell has had a massive effect on his game.

"Honestly I'm very happy that I've done 18 months now injury free so I hope I continue that," he said. "I want to go out there and try my best and, if the opportunity comes, I can take it.

"That's sort of how I've been playing the last probably 12 months - try as hard as I can and if anything comes up, I'm going to take it."

In the later session, veteran Australian Millman cashed in on his Melbourne Park wildcard by delivering a typical five-set marathon victory over Switzerland's Marc-Andrea Huesler to follow Kubler into the second round.

The 33-year-old twice trailed Huesler by a set but fought back before kicking away for a 6-7 (8-10) 7-5 6-7 (2-7) 6-2 6-3 win, prevailing in four hours and six minutes.

Earlier in the day, fellow Aussie Gadecki got the ball rolling for the local contingent, beating Polina Kudermetova in her grand slam debut at the Australian Open. Gadecki, who is being mentored by retired Aussie champion Ash Barty, stormed into the second round with a dominant 7-5 6-1 victory.

On the left is Aussie tennis star Olivia Gadecki and Russia's Polina Kudermetova on the right.
Olivia Gadecki beat Polina Kudermetova in her grand slam debut at the Australian Open. Image: Getty

"I actually can't believe it. I'm speechless," the Aussie said after her opening round victory.

The 20-year-old seized the opening set against Kudermetova with the only break, nailing a big backhand down the line to spark rapturous applause from spectators on Court 8. The Aussie then reeled off a run of six-straight games as she powered to victory in 76 minutes.

Gadecki will now face exciting Ukrainian talent Marta Kostyuk on Wednesday after she beat 28th seed Amanda Anisimova. Gadecki has also secured a life-changing payday of $158,850 for making the second round.

The match was Gadecki's first at grand slam level and came 12 months after originally planned. She was supposed to debut at the Australian Open last year but was unable to play after opting against getting the Covid-19 vaccine.

with AAP

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