Japan’s 28-year-old Go Soeda needed to call upon all his experience to overcome local boy Luke Saville, some 10 years his junior. After a sluggish start, the world No.73 rallied to win 6-7(4) 6-3 6-2 6-3 in two hours and 54 minutes at Australian Open 2013.
His teenage opponent stepped on court this afternoon to compete in his first Grand Slam event. As the reigning Australian Open boys’ champion, Saville is no stranger to the blue courts at Melbourne Park, but today marked an altogether different occasion for the 18-year-old Australian, ranked 349 in the world.
The step up in class mattered little early to Saville, with his confidence and poise belying his tender age as he struck the ball crisply and cleanly, catching Soeda – who has been ranked as high as 47 – off-guard. In the blink of an eye, the teenager had made the early running, breaking Soeda and leading 4-1.
The more experienced Japanese steadied and at 4-4 the match began in earnest with both players displaying their talents and keeping the big crowd on court 6 at Melbourne Park highly entertained.
The first set moved into a tiebreaker, with little separating either of them, but it was Saville who came up with the goods when it mattered, taking it 7-4.
The disappointment just seemed to spur Soeda into action and he looked the superior player throughout the second and third sets, putting pressure on the Saville serve and bringing up a continual string of break points. In the space of just 80 minutes, he had clinched the sets 6-3 6-2.
In his first ever best-of-five set encounter, it was clear the young Aussie’s legs were also beginning to cramp, as he called for the trainer and looked as though he wasn’t getting the spring he had enjoyed earlier in the match.
As the match wore on, the error count was also drifting higher for the young Aussie, but it was the vastly more experienced Soeda keeping the young Australian just at bay that was making the difference, denying him opportunity and dictating play with clever decision-making and deft court movement.
Not to be outdone in his Grand Slam debut, Saville threw everything at Soeda at the beginning of the fourth, serving better than he had all match and extracting an early break to go ahead 3-0 to rapturous applause from the sundrenched crowd.
But the Japanese maintained his composure, as he had done all match, and he stayed his course waiting for his inexperienced opponent to come off the boil.
Once it happened, the end came quickly and Soeda cruised to win the last six games in a row and snuffed out the teenager’s hope of a dream debut.