The Australian Open is almost here! But, for many players, the biggest match of their careers is already behind them.
The final round of qualifying is often seen as the most important matches in tennis, with the prize money and points in a main draw appearance significantly higher than for the players stopped in qualifying.
And, for a lot qualifiers, the pressure is now off and they can play their main draw matches freely.
But which qualifiers have the best chance to make some noise in the main draw? Who impressed in qualifying?
These are three men’s qualifiers to look out for in the main draw of the 2022 Australian Open.
World No. 130 Tomas Machac is one of the stars of the first two weeks of the season.Including Australian Open qualifying, the Czech has won his first eight matches of the season.
Machac began 2022 by winning his third Challenger title in Traralgon, taking down Bjorn Fratangelo 7-6(2), 6-3 in the final. Along the way, Machac had impressive victories over Mikhail Kukushkin and Jesper De Jong, as well.
Machac returned well all week in Traralgon, accumulating a total of 22 breaks over the course of his five matches. In addition, only Harold Mayot in Machac’s first match of the season won over 50% of his second-serve points, and that’s with the huge caveat that Mayot only won 51% of his first serve points.
Of course, Traralgon would be a distant memory if Machac didn’t back it up in Australian Open qualifying.
But, after dropping the first set in qualifying to Camilo Ugo Carabelli, Machac didn’t look back. After coming back to beat Ugo Carabelli, Machac lost a combined nine games in victories against Yuki Bhambri and Jesper De Jong.
Machac played such a complete game to qualify. His serve was on-point, winning over 80% of his first-serve points in all three qualifying matches and getting broken twice in three matches, facing five break points total in the seven sets he played.
And Machac’s return was also up to speed, as he broke 12 times. He also won 40/69 second-serve return points in the three matches combined.
Machac has such great depth and placement on his groundstrokes. He’s also very fast around the court, has great anticipation, and has an amazing ability to recover from very defensive positions in points. He clearly loves playing on hard courts.
And with clay courter Juan Manuel Cerundolo as the Czech’s first round opponent, the chance to win his second-ever Slam singles main draw match (first was at the Australian Open last year) looms large.
World No. 127 Liam Broady certainly would have hoped for an easier draw. Playing his first matches of the 2022 season in Australian Open qualifying, with a potential road to qualifying including Kacper Zuk, JJ Wolf, and Roman Safiullin, it was not going to be an easy path to the main draw for the Brit.
However, while it took the maximum 9 sets of play, Broady eventually qualified for the main draw of the Australian Open. Broady went down a set in all three qualifying matches.
Against Safiullin, Broady’s road to the main draw almost came to an end. Broady had to recover from a 6-4, 5-2* deficit and somehow came back to win 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-2.
But, while Broady’s grit was impressive, that alone wouldn’t have been enough to qualify.
Broady didn’t serve particularly well during qualifying and had to rely on his return and baseline game. And those were clicking for him, as he broke serve 13 times and held all of his opponents to under 50% of their second serves won.
The Brit plays an awkward brand of lefty tennis. Whether it be slice serves short in the box out-wide on the ad-side, a flat backhand that cuts through the court, or his lefty forehand that he can hit with both depth and angles, Broady is a very tough out.
And Broady’s consistency, even in the big moments when other players are getting tense, is admirable. Viewers rarely see him sweat. And that includes when Broady comes to net, as he can effortlessly knife volleys precisely where he wants them to go.
A first-round matchup with Nick Kyrgios will be tough. However, Kyrgios recently had the coronavirus and his preparation was certainly affected by the virus. In addition, where Kyrgios is mentally and physically for a given match is always a question and we will have to see both whether Kyrgios is even interested in this one, and if he is, whether his body can hold up.
This is a decent chance for Broady to pull off a big win.
Taro Daniel has had a magnificent start to the year. He started off the season qualifying and making the second round of Adelaide 1. Along the way, Daniel racked up big wins over Oscar Otte and Lorenzo Musetti before falling to Tommy Paul in three sets.
In the three wins leading up to the match with Paul, Daniel was only broken one time and had 30 aces compared to 8 double faults.
Then, against Paul, when he really needed his return game (as Paul was a better returner himself and could break Daniel more often), Daniel stepped up on-return. He held a pretty good server in Paul to 49% second serves won and broke Paul’s serve three times.
So, Daniel came into Melbourne with momentum, but like with Machac, if he didn’t qualify for the Australian Open, then it was all for nothing.
Well, let’s just say Daniel didn’t leave anything to chance. He only lost 17 games in the three matches combined, never losing more than seven games in a match, and easily passing through to the main draw with wins over Andrea Arnaboldi, Gian Marco Moroni, and Salvatore Caruso.
Daniel faced only seven break points in qualifying, getting broken only twice. He served 23 aces and 0 double faults, winning over 75% of his first-serve points in every match. Daniel also broke serve at least three times in every match.
In the main draw, Daniel will face fellow qualifier Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera. Barrios Vera has a big forehand but is known more for his clay-court prowess. This is a huge opportunity for Daniel to advance even further.
Picking three players wasn’t easy given the depth of the qualifying draw. So, what do you all think of my list? Agree or disagree?
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