Carsten Ball is the last remaining home hope after the second round of Australian Open singles qualifying with compatriot Peter Luczak playing what would be his final match at Melbourne Park.
Wildcard Ball upset his more fancied opponent, Canadian ninth seed Vasek Pospisil, in straight sets 7-6 (7) 6-4. He now faces American Denis Kudla tomorrow for a place in the main draw. The two have never met before.
Luczak, playing his final Australian Open before retirement, wasn’t quite so lucky on Friday. Despite serving for the second set, he went down 6-2 7-5 to Denmark’s Frederik Nielsen.
Ball has often showed signs of a promising future, making an ATP final in LA in 2009 (losing to Sam Querrey) and reaching a career-high ranking of 108 in June, 2010.
However, in recent times, a series of niggling injuries and a distinct loss of form has seen him slump to a current world ranking of No.363.
Directly after the match, Ball was quick to comment on his form.
“This is a complete 180 from where I was at before, so I can’t be much happier,” he said.
His opponent, Pospisil, enjoyed his best year on tour last year, reaching a career high ranking of No.121, with wins over top-50 players such as John Isner and Juan Ignatio Chela. He started 2012 brightly, qualifying for the main draw in Chennai less than a fortnight ago.
Ball was well aware of the Canadian’s recent success.
“He lit it up for several months, he’s been playing very well,” he said. “He’s definitely a guy that’s getting better and better.
“I know him pretty well though, and I feel like I can go toe-to-toe with him on any given day.”
At only 24, Ball still has an opportunity to make his mark, but needs to make some inroads in the near future.
“The goal is obviously double digits and higher,” he said of his ranking goal.
“But I’m keeping it realistic, taking it one match at a time.”
In the short-term, his focus is firmly fixed on his Australian Open prospects.
“Winning two matches here and having the potential to qualify and get in the big show is what I’m here for,” he said.
The match itself was somewhat of a battle of the giants, with 6ft 6in Ball beginning sharply, his big swinging lefty serve troubling his 6ft 4in opponent and giving him the chance to finish points quickly.
Pospisil was also taking care of business at his end with relative ease, and despite having to save one break point, never looked in trouble. At 5-5, a rain shower delayed play, but within an hour, the match had resumed.
Appropriately, the set quickly reached a tiebreaker. With little separating them, it was Pospisil who blinked first. At 5-5, a late fault call unsettled him and he sent the second serve into the net, handing Ball a set point. Pospisil then hit a booming forehand winner to level proceedings but Ball seemingly had the slight edge from then on, winning the set on his third attempt with a perfectly executed serve-and-volley point.
Ball continued the momentum into the second set with an early break for 3-1. Both players looked to be seeing the ball well, highlighted by some awesome serving and power hitting from the back of the court.
It was Ball who seemed to be mixing it up a little more though, especially in taking his opportunities in the front half of the court.
Players traded breaks in the middle of the set with some unusually erratic play on both sides but at 5-4, Ball had the chance to serve out the match. He didn’t look back, with two big serves and a sweetly timed volley bringing up match point. When Pospisil sent a return wide, Ball was through to the last round of qualifying.