Since the conclusion of the 2022 Australian Open, a series of ITF events have been taking place in Australia as a host of young Aussies looked to boost their rankings before heading abroad.
Six tournaments were held over the past eight weeks, with two being played in Bendigo and four in Canberra. Players competing ranged from around 200 to 1200 in both the ATP and WTA rankings, with the large majority being Australians.
The 12 Finals Results were as follows:
M25 – D.Sweeny def. A.Santillan
W25 – A.Muhammad def. P.Hon
M25 – D.Sweeny def. J.McCabe
W25 – A.Muhammad def. A.Rodionova
M25 - L.Tu def. A.Harris
W25 - A.Muhammad def. O.Gadecki
M25 - O.Jasika def. J.McCabe
W25 - J.Fourlis def. O.Gadecki
W60 - M.Uchijima def. O.Gadecki
M25 - J.Kubler def. T.Schoolkate
W60 - S.Jang def. Y.Naito
M25 - J.Kubler def. O.Jasika
From an Aussie perspective, here are my five major standouts.
18-year-old McCabe had a very successful ITF run, going 18-5 in all completed singles matches. While not managing a title, McCabe was just one point from the trophy in Canberra 2 and reached the Semi-Finals at four of the events – a feat which no other man achieved. McCabe, who fell just short in his opening round match of Australian Open Qualifying, has since risen from #1216 to #546 in the ATP Rankings, on the back of his past two months. He is also now ranked 22nd in the ATP Next Gen Race for 2022 and 4th in the world among 18-year-olds this year. In my opinion, McCabe has proven himself to be the best Australian teenage prospect on the men’s side.
21-year-old came out of the gates firing in Canberra, claiming his maiden professional singles title in the opening event before backing up for his second the following week. The Penrith-born Aussie showcased his electrifying court speed and desire to chase down every ball - as well as his glorious mullet – all helping to propel him up from #519 to a career high #383 in the ATP Rankings. Like McCabe, Sweeny is also eligible for the ATP Next Gen Finals where he currently sits in 17th place.
24-year-old Jasika, who has faced a series of battles on and off the court since his US Open triumph as a junior, made a resounding return to professional tennis, capped off with his first ITF title in five years. Jasika was one of the major beneficiaries of the ITF swing, with his ranking rising from #1441 to #581 in the space of a month, setting himself up for a big year and hopefully a long-awaited return to Grand Slam level down the track.
With more points up for grabs in the female events, a stronger contingent of internationals were drawn to both Bendigo and Canberra, which saw only one Aussie woman claim a singles title. Fourlis was the one who managed a trophy as the 22-year-old won the Bendigo title in her home state and the 5thpro title of her career. Throughout February and March, Fourlis jumped up almost 100 places in the WTA Rankingswhere she currently sits at #234. The Australian Open Mixed Doubles Finalist is also closing in on her career high ranking of #189, a goal which she hopes to tick off in 2022.
After missing the 2022 Australian Open due to her vaccination status, 19-year-old Olivia Gadecki capitalised on the local ITF swing, rising from outside the top 250 to World Number 167. The rise could have been even greater had Gadecki converted any of her three finals into titles, however her consistent level, boasting an 18-5 record in completed singles matches, indicates the talented nature of the Aussie teenager. While there appears to be more depth in Australia’s female youth, compared to that of our men, Gadecki has certainly put herself forward as the leader in the bid for our next female star.
Ultimately, these six ITF events in Australia have laid the framework for a host of Aussies who will now look to head overseas and continue to build on their start to 2022. Being able to play professional level matches and earn substantial points - while saving money on travel costs - provides the perfect way to commence a season for lower ranked players.
While many Australian players were able to take full advantage of having professional level events on home soil, fans did not enjoy the same benefit. Crowds at all six ITF events resonated the empty stands during lockdowns and this largely stems from a lack of awareness and marketing.
The national governing body, in Tennis Australia, failed to make one post on its two main social platforms (Instagram, Facebook) about the ITF events and results. Given their reach to thousands of tennis fans across the country, especially post the Australian Summer where tennis interest is at its peak, it truly is quite poor. A major opportunity to promote young stars and high-quality tennis is being missed, and for that reason, tennis is continually struggling to keep pace with other codes in Australia.
Ultimately, Australia needs more pro events outside of January, to assist young and emerging players all year round. But these tournaments simply must be advertised promoted and marketed better to fully capitalise on Australia’s love for the sport.