Sports

Tomic in testing Aussie Open qualifiers

Bernard Tomic faces a taxing qualifying path towards making another appearance in the Australian Open while Sydney’s Abbie Myers can savour a high-profile tie with former Wimbledon runner-up Eugenie Bouchard.

Tomic has flown to Doha where he’s among 11 Australian men seeking to grab one of the 16 qualifying places on offer for the tournament while Myers and eight other Aussie women are in Dubai looking to gain a place in their home Open.

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.

It’s possible he could end up in a second round qualifier with Tristan Schoolkate, the teenage Australian wild card from Perth, but the 19-year-old, ranked 839 in the world, first has to get past the experienced world No.166, Argentine Guido Andreozzi.

Also in Tomic’s section is the tough Italian 39-year-old veteran Paolo Lorenzi, the 25th seed, who first faces experienced 31-year-old Townsville southpaw John-Patrick Smith, on Monday.

The COVID-19-impacted tournament’s first off-shore qualifying events will begin on Sunday with the first Australian in action in Doha being Blake Mott.

The 24-year-old, who is seeking to get into his hometown event in Melbourne, is up against Sweden’s Elias Ymer.

Rinky Hijikata, the promising 19-year-old from Sydney, will later face the American Christopher Eubanks, five years his senior and 450 places higher-ranked.

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 Dubai, Myers, a 26-year-old wild card from Sydney who’s ranked 322 in the world, has a high-profile opener on Monday.

Myers, who’s never got past the first round of qualifying on three previous occasions, will be up against 25th seed Bouchard, Canada’s former top-five star who’s still trying to revive her career down at No.141 on the WTA circuit.

Ellen 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 in Dubai when she takes on American Caroline Dolehide on Sunday.

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