The second round of the Australian Open finished as the sun was slowly rising over my home, on the sad note of Andy Roddick’s retirement during his match with Lleyton Hewitt. Despite the excitement, despair, rage, exhilaration, and all the other feelings that this second round has brought me over the last two days, I would like to stop on two youngsters who faced their first top 10 opponents in that second round. They both lost, but for both of them, I think that the end of their Melbourne run is just the beginning of their rise.
Interestingly enough, these two players are from the “Class of ’92”, same as rising stars Bernard Tomic and Ryan Harrison, for instance, and in both cases, the defeats suffered are part of the learning process.
Paula Ormaechea pushed out of Melbourne
Tuesday night, a few hours before she was set to play her second-round match against Agnieszka Radwanska (8), I dedicated a lengthy post to the young Argentine, whom I discovered not a year ago, but who has, I admit, become one of my favourite players and one whose playing style reconciled me with WTA tennis.
I the odd duck among a bunch of Argentine friends pulling the all-nighter in order to watch her play (along with del Potro’s and Nalbandian’s matches, of course), and following and commenting her match, I think the general sentiment was the same for everyone: an almost certainty that the upset wouldn’t occur but a wish for her to do good and give a good match.
Despite the 3-6 1-6 loss, a good match we had. As usual very aggressive in her play, with a nice mixture of power and angles that would even have made even David Ferrer envious, Ormaechea really tried to stay toe to toe with the no 8 seed, but to no avail. As is one of the traits of her game, the Pole let her, as so many before her, hang herself with the proverbial rope of her own aggressive game.
However, the fact that Ormaechea ended the match with only two more unforced errors than winners (28 for 26) is, in my mind, a very positive proof that the 19-year-old Sunchales native really hung in there during the match. The only factor that, to me, could have made that match even more competitive was Paula’s second serve, which was part of the reason of what happened in the second set.
Then again, there is much positive to be taken from that first top 10 match experience for Ormaechea. She showed that she has the game and guts to compete with the best, already, even though there are, of course, things that need improvement, among which the serve.
Contrary to something I’ve seen from a few people (that she should cut out on the unforced errors), her aggressive playing style will likely not be one that will make her cut out on the unforced errors and it is absolutely normal. It is the same for all the players who play such a style of tennis. But this very aggressiveness, that mixture of power, trick shots, and crazy angles, is what should, likely, take her pretty far. That way she has of opening up the court to try and nail a winner is something that I surely will never tire of.
Her performance ensuring her of a ranking around no 140 in the world, Paula Ormaechea is assured of entering the qualifications of Indian Wells and Miami, and believe me, this is only the first we will have heard of her.
James Duckworth – No more the unknown Aussie
There is Lleyton Hewitt and for many years, we wondered who would take his place once he retires. Then came Bernard Tomic, the fairest Australian prospect in many years, a potential World no 1 in the maybe not so distant future. Matthew Ebden finally broke through last year, even though he was never as promising as Tomic. Most of us have heard about Benjamin Mitchell (another from the ’92) but except those who closely follow junior tennis, who had heard of James Duckworth?
I admit that until the Copa Topper (Buenos Aires), last fall, I hadn’t. And that I then quickly adopted him. The way he can vary the play was something that quickly appealed to me, but also the fact that to help his development, he did not fear going to play on clay and gain valuable experience on the surface, something that will most definitely help him in the long run.
This year, he seems ready to break through as ranked 250 in the world, he made his way through the second round of the Open, first defeating Jurgen Zopp and yesterday facing his first top 10 opponent, World no 9 Janko Tipsarevic. I knew he had the talent to give Tipsy a fair battle (as did those who saw him do the same with Gilles Simon in Sydney) and he actually caused quite a scare among the fans of the Serbian when he took the first set with an astute mixture of powerful groundstrokes and crafty net play.
However, the Serbian responded well to the challenge and had to play an incredible match in order to dispatch the young Australian, as never once did Duckworth gave up in this 3-6 6-2 7-6(5) 6-4 win of Tipsarevic. As a matter of fact, it took Tipsarevic his cleverest shots to dispatch the Australian, who really made a name for himself in Melbourne before, likely, heading back to the Challenger Tour within the next few weeks.
I don’t know if he will enter the top 100 this season, but one thing is for sure: with his skill and talent, James Duckworth is surely bound to a great career.
If you want to know a little bit more about Duckworth, have a look at his Open Drive:
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He’s also very endearing, no?