Wimbledon’s not even underway but already Sydney battler Matt Barton has penned the feel good story of the championships.
After failing in six previous qualifying attempts, Barton will make his long-awaited grand slam main-draw debut in front of family and friends at the spiritual home of tennis on Tuesday.
The 24-year-old only earned the final spot in qualifying half an hour before the draw was made after six players pulled out.
Barton, who quit playing to coach two years ago amid a depressing run with injuries, was driving to London from Nottingham – where he’d lost in qualifying for that event – when the life-changing email dropped in.
“I was like ‘wow, unreal, I’m in,'” Barton said.
“I thought I was no chance. Everyone was telling me I was no chance.”
The big-serving world No.247 duly converted his good fortune into a guaranteed $55,000 Wimbledon first round cheque – doubling his career earnings of $56,690 – by storming through three qualifying matches and taking out the top seed in his last.
But he’s not done yet.
In the first round Barton plays fellow qualifier Albano Olivetti, a Frenchman he knows well and knows he can beat.
“It’s a great draw. I’m really happy with that,” said Barton.
“It’s going to be an amazing feeling when I step out on court.”
Former Wimbledon junior champion Luke Saville also hopes to seize on a “massive opportunity” to break his main-draw duck at the All England Club after pulling off another qualifying Houdini act of his own.
A year after saving a series of match points to qualify, Saville rallied from two sets to one down then survived some hairy moments in the decider to make the main draw.
“It was pretty epic,” Saville said after squeezing out his 6-4 3-6 2-6 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 victory over German Matthias Bachinger.
“He was right on top in the second and third sets and I went to the toilet to sort of gather my thoughts a little bit.
“I came out and basically gave it everything I had. I told myself to ‘Go super aggressive here’.
“I really had to find something there.”
Saville’s reward is a Tuesday showdown with fellow qualifier Dennis Novikov.
“It’s a massive opportunity,” said the 22-year-old who, despite his success as a two-time junior major winner, has only ever won one match at senior grand slam level.