Tennis 10 months ago

Groth out to earn Australian Open spot

  • Groth out to earn Australian Open spot

    Sam Groth claimed a gruelling five-set Australian Open play-off victory over four hours on Monday.

The tennis journeys of Sam Groth, Omar Jasika and Andrew Whittington would barely have intersected before Monday but each found a path to the Australian Open play-off quarter-finals in the same way: five gruelling sets.

In the Melbourne heat, the three Australians overcame various challenges to fight on for the Open wildcard on offer.

Groth's issue wasn't his body - as might be expected - but an especially determined opponent.

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Dayne Kelly, the world No.395, challenged him for more than four hours before falling 6-3 6-7(5-7) 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 10-8.

Groth said he felt for Kelly, who has never played an ATP-level event, let alone a major.

"He played a smart match. He had a two sets to one lead and a match point. That's tough," he told AAP.

Groth has been hampered by a persistent foot problem through 2016, plummeted more than 200 slots before settling at a year-end rank of 181.

He said the foot felt fine after coming off court.

"I just got through a five-setter, 10-8 in the fifth, so that's a good sign," the 29-year-old said.

"This year was disappointing but I'm moving forward. I want to get back where I was at the end of 2015 and I still feel like quality tennis is ahead of me.

"The last few years I've been there direct and I want to earn it, I don't want to worry about being given (a wildcard)."

For Omar Jasika, the battle was mental.

His opponent Marinko Matosevic fell apart at two sets and a break up and the 19-year-old was keen to take some credit.

"He started to get tired and fatigued because I kept him out there in the sun," he said.

"I hung in there. I think my game is good enough to go the distance. I've got the legs, I've got the speed."

After claiming the 2015 junior US Open crown, Jasika played his first grand slam at Melbourne Park this year, where he was a first-round winner.

"I'm hungry to do it again. Last year was unbelievable," he said.

And as for Whittington - the barely-known top seed at the showdown - his main battle was a bug.

He played the first five-set match of his career against 18-year-old Max Purcell, coughing between games and losing a 2-0 set lead before recovering in the fifth.

"I had a little problem with my breathing and chest ... I'm looking forward to the day off," he said.

Whittington shaved his ranking from 600 to a career-best 170 during 2016 and is eyeing a first major appearance in his home town.

"I live in Melbourne so it'd be a childhood dream ... It'd mean everything," he said.

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