Omar Jasika has rebounded from a first-set meltdown to win a place in the Australian Open with a four-set playoff final win on Sunday.
Jasika, 19, stuttered early before steamrolling no-fuss Queenslander John-Patrick Smith 6-7 (2-7) 6-2 6-0 6-4 at Melbourne Park to win the coveted wildcard for the 2017 tournament.
He joins first-time major entrant Jaimee Fourlis, who defeated Abbie Myers 7-6 (8-6) 7-5 in the women’s final earlier on Sunday.
Jasika’s success means a return to the grand slam stage after successfully debuting at Melbourne Park this year with a second-round appearance.
The tournament win came after Jasika escaped from two sets and a break down to Marinko Matosevic in the first round.
“In my head I was thinking I’d lost,” he said.
“I found a way to win that and got better and better. It gave me confidence.”
Against Smith, the teenager’s precision baseline play delighted his rowdy ‘Omar’s Army’ fangroup.
But it wasn’t always plain sailing for the world No.367, taking on a player eight years and 137 rankings places his senior.
The former junior US Open champion was so frustrated by his tiebreak showing that he thrashed his racquet into the court for 10 seconds, earning a point penalty.
After the rage came the rally.
From 2-2 in the third set, Jasika won 10 straight games, returning with poise and hitting smartly around the court.
Smith found form in the fourth set, but gave up a break in the ninth game and with it, the match.
“It was a close first set,” Jasika said.
“I was trying to keep my cool as much as I can … (the racquet smash) released a lot of anger.
“When the new balls came out in the second set I started to find more rhythm … I started not missing a lot.”
That the two wildcards will head to teenage talents – Jasika is 19 and Fourlis is 17 – will please Tennis Australia.
Fourlis, who like Jasika is a Melbourne native, said she couldn’t wait to play at the 2017 tournament against the sport’s elite.
“It is an incredible feeling. I don’t know how to describe it,” she said.
“I don’t really care (who I draw).
“It’ll be an amazing feeling playing in front of a home crowd. I wouldn’t mind drawing an Aussie because then it’d be even. It’ll be awesome no matter what.”
The day was a double success for the Jasikas, with younger bother Amor winning a national underage tournament at Melbourne Park.
“I watched him this morning. It was a good day for my dad and mum,” he laughed.