The boys’ singles final at Rod Laver Arena on Saturday afternoon looked on paper a tough one to predict, but in the end, it was Australian Luke Saville who reversed his loss in the final here last year and brought it home for his nation, running out victorious, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, in exactly two hours of highly entertaining tennis.
“It feels really good to be champion here at the Australian Open,” said Saville after the match. “[It’s] an experience I will take with me and cherish for years to come.”
As the tournament’s top seed and world no.1 junior, Saville arrived on court with the crowd right behind him in his bid to follow-up on his breakthrough success at Wimbledon last year.
“All the pressure and expectations was on me. To stand up to that ... and win the tournament, it's, you know, massive relief, as well,” he said.
Despite being unseeded here, his opponent, Canadian Filip Peliwo, has been a rising star over the last few months, capped off with a notable win over Saville in the final of the lead-up tournament just over a week ago.
The two boys are a mere two days apart in age – both will be celebrating their eighteenth birthday immediately after the tournament; Peliwo next Monday and Saville on Wednesday. The Aussie, as it turns out, was the one to receive the early gift, in the form of a second Grand Slam title.
It was Saville who began the better of the two. Taking full advantage of his experience at Rod Laver Arena last year, he seemed more composed on the big stage, immediately knuckling down and breaking Peliwo at the first asking to jump out to a 3-0 lead.
The young Canadian was taking a while to adjust to the surroundings, but once he did, the battle everyone had anticipated began to emerge.
At 4-2, Saville was forced to stave off a break point with some big serving but he eventually held, and that was enough for him to take the opening set 6-3 – the early break enough to make the difference.
With both players now in full swing, and the nerves shaken out, the second set was significantly tighter, with the two combatants moving each other around behind the baseline, and hitting sublime winners off both sides when opportunities presented.
After finding himself a break point down in the opening game – which he saved with a beautiful second serve right at the body of Saville – Peliwo showed some incredible touch to then take the Aussie’s serve and strike first blood.
But it was now Saville’s turn to rise to the occasion, and to the appreciation of the crowd, he eventually struck back, and then held tough on a long service game to level proceedings at 5-5.
Peliwo, however, was far from done with, as he lifted yet again to break the Australian to love at 6-5 and take the second set.
With the match now poised on a knife-edge, it was Saville who would regain his earlier composure and take the early ascendancy. Peliwo continued to fight, but as per the first set, the initial damage proved the difference, and Saville stayed strong on his serve throughout to eventually snare the victory, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.
Saville now joins Australian no.1 Bernard Tomic, who was the last local winner of this event in 2008, with two junior Grand Slam titles to his name.
In looking to the future, Saville said his main goal was to keep on developing his game and body, and “maybe put my hand up for a game here at the men's in twelve months' time.”