The retiring Lleyton Hewitt might be on his farewell tour around the country, but men’s tennis in Australia is far from over.
For the first time in a decade, Australia can boast a trio of local men in the second round of the Sydney International.
Wildcard James Duckworth joined compatriots Bernard Tomic and Jordan Thompson in the final 16 after a gritty upset of higher-ranked Spaniard Inigo Cervantes 6-3 6-2 in his tournament-opener on Tuesday.
A fourth male Aussie, Sam Groth, plays on Ken Rosewall arena later on Tuesday night.
But it was Duckworth who continued a solid start to the week for the locals, who also watched top-ranked female Sam Stosur cruise to her first Sydney quarter-final in 11 years.
“It was really tough conditions. The wind was swirling around a lot in there. It would come from one direction and then go from the other,” Duckworth, ranked No.134, said after the match.
“It was tough to find any sort of rhythm, but I think I handled myself pretty well, served pretty well, (and) used a bit of variety in my game, which helps in those sorts of conditions.”
Not since Hewitt, Chris Guccione and Peter Luzcak all advanced to the second round in 2006 has the grand slam warm-up event featured this many Aussie men.
An all-Aussie encounter between Tomic and wildcard Thompson on Wednesday night means an Australian is certain to make this year’s quarter-finals.
An improving Duckworth said men’s tennis in Australia was “in a great place”, and credited youngsters Thompson, John Millman, Ben Mitchell, and Oliver Anderson for creating a competitive culture at their training base in Brisbane.
“One of us started doing well, and the other guys … we’re all practising together and we’re thinking, `If he can get to top 100, why can’t I?'” he said.
“Everyone sort of follows suit. (There’s) not a whole lot difference between all of us and we’re all sort of gradually improving.”
Tuesday’s win over the 72nd-ranked Cervantes also marked Duckworth’s first in four attempts in Sydney.
It is yet another sign of progression for the Sydney product, who reached a career-high No.82 last year and appeared in all four grand slams.
Earlier on Tuesday, French sixth seed Jeremy Chardy easily accounted for qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin, while Argentine seventh seed Leonardo Mayer was eliminated by Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-4 6-3.