Dreams were made and hopes dashed as the final round of the Australian Open men’s and women’s qualifying singles tournaments were played at Melbourne Park today.
Winners earnt a place in the main draw, which starts on Monday, while the losers were left to rue a missed opportunity.
Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis was the first player to qualify, defeating Chile’s Paul Capdeville 6-2, 6-1 in 54 minutes in the opening match on court 7.
“Today I think I did really well,” Berankis said. “He also played well, but I think I over hit him today. Overall I’m very happy about it.”
Berankis, the No. 2 seed, is now hoping to emulate a third round run he made at the Australian Open in 2011. That performance signalled the arrival of the former world No. 1 junior player at senior level, taking him to a career-high ranking of 73. But injury struggles have derailed Berankis’s career and he has not played in a Grand Slam main draw since.
“It feels like a very long time ago, but this year I’m in the main draw again and very much looking forward to it,” Berankis said.
In shock results, high-profile American duo Ryan Sweeting and Donald Young were both eliminated. Sweeting lost to younger compatriot Steve Johnson 6-3, 6-4, and Young failed to back up his victory over former world No. 4 James Blake on Friday, beaten by Great Britain’s Jamie Baker 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.
American Rajeev Ram had better success, toughing out a 5-7, 6-2, 11-9 win against Switzerland’s Marco Chiudinelli in just under three hours on court 13.
Two Israeli players qualified, with Dudi Sela, the No.3 seed, beating German No.17 seed Michael Berrer 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, and Amir Weintraub earning his debut Grand Slam main draw berth with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Argentina’s Diego Sebastian Schwartzman.
Fourth seeded Ruben Bemelmans, of Belgium, defeated Turkey’s Marsel Ilhan in straight sets and countryman Maxime Authom, the No.31 seed, upset Frenchman Florent Serra, the No.8 seed, 6-4, 6-4 to also snare a main draw berth. Frenchman Adrian Mannarino’s fortunes were better, dismissing Canada’s Peter Polansky 6-1, 6-3 in 61 minutes.
Spanish players Adrian Menendez-Maceiras and Daniel Munoz-De La Nava, Germans Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, Julian Reister and Daniel Brands and Russian Alex Bogomolov Jr also qualified.
In the women’s competition, it was Serbian Vesna Dolonc, who is no stranger to grinding it out in qualifying, who made a dominant statement. The 23-year-old, competing in the Australian Open qualifying tournament for a sixth consecutive year, earnt a second main draw berth with a 6-1, 6-0 demolition of Canadian No. 18 seed Stephanie Dubois.
“I was a bit on fire today,” Dolonc said. “I’m happy that again I’m in the Australian Open main draw because I love to play here. I was hoping to get the main draw here and I’ve done that, it’s nice.”
Dolonc made the third round the only previous time she qualified, knocking out No.15 seed Marion Bartoli in the second round in 2011.
Portugal’s Michelle Larcher De Brito needed more than two hours to defeat South Africa’s Chanel Simmonds, triumphing 4-6 6-1 8-6 in a titanic clash on court 10.
Larcher De Brito, the No.15 seed, burst on to the scene when she won her first WTA Tour level match as a 14-year-old in 2007, but she is only now set to make her Australian Open main draw debut.
“Coming here I was thinking, ‘I’ve played main draw of all the other Grand Slams, it’d it be great if I could play the Australian’ and now I am,” Larcher De Brito said.
Fellow Portugal player Maria Joao Koehler also qualified, defeating the sole remaining Australian Arina Rodionova 6-2, 4-6, 6-1.
Rising Thai talent Luksika Kumkhum was another player who earnt a main draw debut, the 19- year-old beating Russian Marta Sirotkina 7-6(8), 3-6, 6-2.
Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko, the top-ranked player in the qualifying draw, ended Cagla Buyukakcay’s run. Buyurkakcay was trying to become the first Turkish woman to play in a Grand Slam main draw but was no match for Tsurenko in the 6-3, 6-1 loss.
Other women to qualify were Akgul Amanmuradova, of Uzbekistan, Italian Karin Knapp, Russians Vera Dushevina, Valeria Savinykh and Daria Gavrilova, Hungarian veteran Greta Arn and Chinese Taipei’s Yung-Jan Chan.