2020 Adelaide International - Day 4
2020 Adelaide International - Day 4

Third time lucky for Aussie Thunder-Bolt

Alex Bolt had already missed two match points in the previous game when the third came along.

This time it was on his serve, 40-30, a leftie hitting into the left court. His opponent, the redoubtable German Jan-Lennard Struff failed to return the rocket and the man from Murray Bridge, the man with the bleached mullet, the man who left tennis to play footy for Mypolonga in the River Murray Football League, was through to the last eight of the Adelaide International.

 

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Match court 2 on the outer edge of the Memorial Drive tennis complex will not have experienced a finer moment, Bolt's supporters in the temporary stand jubilant, the crowd cheering, even Struff seemed happy for the world's 157th-ranked male professional.

It was deserved.

Struff is no cannon fodder, ranked No.37 and one of the (many) giant men on tour, he was eclipsed by Bolt from the off who kept his cool throughout, 6-3, 6-4 the stats.

The blip that saw Bolt concede a set to the 661 ranked Stephen Robert the night before was wholly absent. He knew it must not happen again he said.

"I really did try to knuckle down after that first set, I was consistent, that's the most consistent I have been."

The best win of your career maybe?

"It's definitely up there. This is my hometown, I grew up training on these courts," he said surveying the CBD grounds around, and in between signing an autograph or two. It was a sweet moment indeed.

 

TEEN PRODIGY TOO GOOD FOR AUSSIE BATTLER

Minutes before Bolt clinched his big win, Sydney's James Duckworth stepped onto centre court to face the fast riser of 2019, Felix Auger-Aliassime, after a year that saw the Canadian reach the Masters 1000 semi-final in Miami and catapulted him into child prodigy territory two months later when he became the youngest player ranked in the top 25 since Lleyton Hewitt, upon reaching an ATP 5000 final in Rio.

He looks the part, tall, athletic and quick, and kept his focus when Duckworth threatened to up his game following a first set the Canadian took unruffled.

 

Young gun Felix Auger-Aliassime just had too much class for the Aussie. Picture: Getty Images
Young gun Felix Auger-Aliassime just had too much class for the Aussie. Picture: Getty Images

 

Not that Duckworth played badly - he can head to Melbourne with confidence - but there was a gap, the first set 6-3 before Duckworth stepped up to take the next set to a tie-break. It was a false dawn, Auger-Aliassime crushing the Aussie in the tie-break 7-0.

"He made me push, he made me work. I played some fantastic tennis in the tie-break. I am really happy to see a lot of people here for my opening match," Auger-Aliassime said.

He will face another Australian, Bolt, in Thursday's quarter-final, again on centre court.

"I have seen Alex over the years on the Challenger tour. I know he always plays well here in Australia. I know he is from this region, I am expecting a lot of support (for Bolt)."

Memorial Drive will be a sell out on Thursday night, with Ash Barty first up and then Bolt. No wonder.

 

Adelaide Strikers including Peter Siddle and Cam White were at Memorial Drive to watch Duckworth. Picture: Getty Images
Adelaide Strikers including Peter Siddle and Cam White were at Memorial Drive to watch Duckworth. Picture: Getty Images

 

 

RUBLEV OVERCOMES JET LAG

Not even some severe jet lag can ground Andrey Rublev's flying start to the season, as the highest-ranked player in the men's draw cruised into the quarter-finals at the Adelaide International.

Now ranked world No. 18, the Russian No. 3 seed is the highest in the field following a spate of high-profile withdrawals from the revamped tournament.

That looks to be the 22-year-old's gain, as he made it nine wins (and 15 sets) in a row with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over tour veteran Sam Querrey and showed he was looking the goods to claim his second title of 2020 following his triumph in Doha just four days ago.

Almost immediately after winning his third ATP career title in Doha, Rublev was in transit to Adelaide and after the win over Querrey he revealed because of the jet lag he barely slept before the match.

"The first night (in Adelaide) I sleep well, but last night I went to bed around 11.20pm and I wake up at 2.40am and that's it, no sleep," he said.

"So, I'm starting to feel a bit tired now."

Russian Andrey Rublev fires down a serve against American Sam Querrey. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images
Russian Andrey Rublev fires down a serve against American Sam Querrey. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images

It wouldn't just be the time-zone differences that could be making the young gun tired, a whirlwind end to 2019 and a desire to hit 2020 running meant he only took seven days off without playing tennis in the closing months of last year.

However, Rublev said he was feeling the best he ever had, and now believed he could mix it with the best following wins over Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka and world No. 5 Dominic Thiem in recent months.

"Actually, I was telling my coach I didn't want to stop the (2019) season," he said.

"I was just starting to feel like I could compete with the best players and the season was over.

"So, I wanted to keep going …. I'm really enjoying it."

While Querrey did make Rublev work for his win at times in the second set, after he came back strongly following going down a break early, the Russian showed Memorial Drive's centre court while he was considered one of the best of generation next.

His powerful forehand in particular was impressive, which he bases on Federer's, but it was also his ability to defend against Querrey's powerful serve that caught the eye.

 

 

Sam Querrey was outplayed by Russian Andrey Rublev on Wednesday. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images
Sam Querrey was outplayed by Russian Andrey Rublev on Wednesday. Picture: Paul Kane/Getty Images

This got him a break in just the third game of the match and a double break at 5-3 up gave the Russian the first.

He looked like he would run away with it when he secured another early break in the second, but Querrey dug deep and broke right back.

Rublev's fiery nature threatened to come out, his coach copped a couple of sprays, but he recovered from that to again break Querrey and take a 4-2 lead in the second.

The American had his chance to come back when at 30-30 in the next game the two traded shot-after-shot in a marathon rally, but with a forehand winner beckoning Querrey fluffed his lines and Rublev was able to hold and cruise towards the win in straight-sets.

He will now take on Brit Daniel Evans, who beat Australian No. 1 Alex de Minaur in a thrilling ATP Cup clash in Sydney as part of his hot start to 2020, in the what looms as the pick of the last eight action.

No. 4 seed Pablo Carreno Busta ended the Jeremy Chardy party on Show Court 1, comfortably winning 6-3, 6-2.

The Spaniard was rarely troubled by the veteran Frenchman and set up a quarter-final clash with South African qualifier Lloyd Harris who continued his strong start to the season with a 7-6 (5), 6-3 win over Serbian Laslo Djere.

This was Harris' second win over a player ranked significantly above him and he will be looking for another scalp over Carreno Busta.


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