South Africa’s two top-ranked tennis players, Lloyd Harris and Kevin Anderson, were unfortunately both beaten in the first round on the opening day of the Australian Open in Melbourne on Monday.
The 144th ranked wildcard, Australian Aleksandar Vukic, lost the first set before storming back to overwhelm the No30 seed Harris 4-6 6-3 7-5 7-6 (7-3) in 2hr 55min. And South Africa’s other singles hopeful, Anderson, opened his campaign against big-hitting American and 23rd seed, Reilly Opelka, going down 6-3 6-4 7-6 (7-3).
Vukic will now play Moldovan qualifier Radu Albot in the second round on Wednesday. The Aussie lost the first break point against his serve, which set the tone in the first set, as Harris went on to claim it 4-6.
Using the support of a vocal pro-Aussie crowd, Vukic clawed his way back to claim the second set, before saving four break points in the third to take the lead in the match.
The 25-year-old closed out the match in the fourth set tiebreaker and was ecstatic in his post-match interview.
This is totally a dream,” Vukic told Channel Nine after the match.
“Especially this court, with all these guys. I mean, I came here as a kid and I was watching the Aussies play here. To play here, myself, and to get the win … I can’t put it into words mate… this is a dream.”
Vukic also paid tribute to his parents as he described the feeling of winning a match at his home Grand Slam.
“They’re [my parents] the reason why I am here. My whole family is here and a few friends as well. It means the world. They are with me day in and day out, and through ups and downs … a lot of stuff that people don’t see. I’ll treasure this moment for the rest of our life.”
It was a disappointing loss for Harris, whose preparations for the year’s opening Grand Slam was disrupted by a positive Covid-19 test in Dubai just after Christmas. It prevented him from travelling to Australia for a warm-up event in Melbourne.
The 24-year-old Capetonian eventually recovered to make the trip Down Under where he entered in the ATP 250-level event in Adelaide last week.
There he appeared short of match practice, losing 7-5, 5-7, 4-6 in the first round to Korea’s 53rd-ranked Soonwoo Kwon.