Australian Open 2016: Report card from the home room

Australian Open 2016: Report card from the home room

Of the 18 Australians in the singles main draws, all were disappointingly free to make BBQ plans for Australia Day. Unlike last year, when Nick Kyrgios reached the last eight, there was no local featured in the quarter-finals, other than the insightful Lleyton Hewitt taking his place among the retirees in the commentary box.

As a collective, little could be expected from the young wildcard debutantes Priscilla Hon, Maddi Inglis and Kim Birrell, who all lost in straight sets, but have at least had a taste of the big time, and been left hungry for more. The same goes for Tammi Patterson, who won her wildcard as the best-performed player on the local Pro Circuit, only to manage just five games against Ana Ivanovic.

Canberra's Alison Bai is drawing inspiration from Daria Gavrilova's rise through the ranks.

Canberra's Alison Bai is drawing inspiration from Daria Gavrilova's rise through the ranks.

Photo: Eddie Jim

Jordan Thompson has earned his previous wildcards via the playoff, and while the world No.149 will have been disappointed not to have made more of his discretionary invitation than a 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 against 37th-ranked Brazilian Tomaz Bellucci, nor was it exactly a surprise.

Injuries were blamed in large part for the first round downfalls of experienced former top 100 duo Jarmila Wolfe and Matt Ebden, but both have had plenty of chances now, and the invitations are surely finite. Much, too, has been invested in Storm Sanders over some interrupted years, and while head of women's tennis Nicole Pratt remains optimistic there is still a productive future for the 21-year-old whose ranking has slipped to 355th, the latest result was a straight sets loss to Alexandra Dulgheru.

As for the rest, there were some brilliant efforts and tough examinations, as well as some questionable classroom behaviour and a few tantrums worthy of a visit to the principal's office. The grades:



Daria Gavrilova

Tired and emotional by the end of her first summer in the playground with the big kids, the bouncy newcomer was both wildly popular and marvellously productive. What started at the Hopman Cup continued with defeats of Lucie Hradecka, dual Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and 28th seed Kristina Mladenovic before a cranky flame-out against Carla Suarez Navarro. A steep learning curve, and much still to work on, but top marks overall.


Bernard Tomic

The No.16 played to his seeding by reaching the fourth round for the third consecutive year, beating Denis Istomin, Simone Bolelli and John Millman (average ranking 71st). So did what he had to do, then did a little bit more against No.2 seed Andy Murray than he had before, but still without winning a set, now having lost seven times at slams to a Murray/Djokovic/Federer/Nadal, and seven other times to rivals in the top 15. His own ranking will drop back a few places on Monday, but we'll let hard-to-please Mr Federer do the maths on that.

Omar Jasika

The 18-year-old wildcard started his senior grand slam education as his good friend Nick Kyrgios had done, by beating a more seasoned opponent - Illya Marchenko - in the first round. It all ended in the second for the 2014 US Open junior champion, but not dishonourably, with a 7-5, 6-1, 6-4 loss to ninth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Needs to keep doing what he has been. A promising start.

John Millman

From sleeping at airports and train stations to Saturday night live on Rod Laver Arena against the national No.1, Millman achieved his best grand slam result by defeating Gilles Muller in round two. He competed well against Tomic, winning a set and losing no friends. The good bloke factor is a bonus; behaviour impeccable, too.


Sam Groth

Came in underdone after rehabilitating from October foot surgery, but managed to eke out a four-set defeat of Frenchman Adrian Mannarino to become the first Australian to stray into the rifle sights of that ruthless Aussie-slayer Murray. The 6-0, 6-4, 6-1 second-round numbers were not flattering, but nor were they as bad as, for a time, they threatened to be.

Nick Kyrgios

Results alone earned the 20-year-old a pass mark, as he answered, decisively, the first two questions posed by Pablo Carreno Busta and Pablo Cuevas before encountering a Tomas Berdych puzzle he could not solve. Warning: marks will be deducted in the future for bad behaviour, as potentially the most brilliant student of all remains the most easily-distracted.


Sam Stosur

The 25th seed extended her home slam misery with a 6-4, 7-6 (8-6) loss to free-swinging qualifier Kristyna Pliskova on day one. There is no logical reason why she should continually fail a test simply because of where she is sitting it, but so it is, and has been, and so it was again. Paris clay, a subject in which she has most consistently excelled, cannot come quickly enough.

James Duckworth

Some special consideration here for the added difficulty of pupil taking on master, but the wildcard playoff winner would have expected better than a straight sets send-off that, in the end, was his. Will live on in trivia quizzes as the last player Hewitt beat in a singles match, while not quite answering the questions he would have asked of himself when really put to the test..

Alja Tomljanovic

On scholarship as a resident who plays as an Australian at the majors while awaiting full citizenship, so squeezes onto the report card just four times a year. After an interrupted build-up, Tomljanovic could not pinch a set from an opponent, Kateryna Bondarenko, who is ranked 25 places higher. Still, considered to be a good influence on one of the more unruly members (see pass marks, above) of the class.


Lleyton Hewitt

A category all his own for the man who has had a perfect 20-year attendance record, never had his effort questioned, and produced some exceptional results. Not always the best-mannered, and guilty of some questionable language - example: line judge as "moron" and chair umpire as "freaking idiot" - right to the end. But graduates with honours to fill an important teaching role he has already started, with the Davis Cup class of 2016 and beyond.

Linda Pearce

Linda Pearce is the Chief Tennis Writer and general sports reporter for The Age. She writes about a range of sports, including football, netball, and gymnastics. Linda has twice been named Australian tennis writer of the year.

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