Tennis

Tears of joy for Duckworth

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Title win ensures him a slot in Australian Open main draw

Amidst the sweat on James Duckworth’s face, due to the effort on centre court at the KPIT MSLTA Pune Challenger Series, flowed tears of joy at clinching matchpoint after three sets against Jay Clark in the men’s singles final. The champion’s reaction on matchpoint was dramatic. He crumbled on court, lay on his back for a while and kicked the air with his legs in instinctive celebration.

Later, he sobbed into the towel. “This match was for (getting back into) the top 100 (on the ATP rankings) and (playing) the Australian Open.” The 80 ATP points earned at Pune lifted the Aussie into the top 100 and confirmed a main draw berth at the 2020 Australian Open. For a pro on the verge of giving up playing tennis due to repeated surgeries following shoulder, elbow and foot injuries, the delight of entry into a Grand Slam event was overwhelming.

Emotions

He explained: “I was in the top 100 in 2015 and part of the time I was injured till 2017. Going through five surgeries in 12 months, going through all the rehab, hours on the court just trying to get back to actually just playing tennis, then realising that I was back in the top 100 means everything to me. I am just so happy. At first I was happy to just be playing the sport, now improving my ranking to below 100 took over my emotions.”

Duckworth made his AO debut in 2012 and played till 2017, missed the 2018 edition due to the rehab, returned post-recovery in the 2019 edition and will be on court again next year when the world’s top pros arrive down under. “There were stages when I thought I might never play again. My foot was not getting any better and dealing with it was tough mentally. I pulled through due to family support, three incredible people were my brother, sister and girlfriend.”

The 27-year-old Sydney-born, Brisbane-based player does not know whom he will face, but remembers two encounters with Roger Federer. “ I played him twice (lost in straight sets at Brisbane International 2014 and AO 2015). I had no idea where he is serving and that was his biggest strength. He is a complete player, does everything. I also practised with him a few times, a really nice guy for whom I have a lot of respect. I hope Federer just doesn’t retire..” said Duckworth at the Balewadi sports complex. He promised to return for the ATP event, the Maharashtra Open 2020.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2019 9:39:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/tears-of-joy-for-duckworth/article30008130.ece

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