AUSSIES TO WATCH ON THE ITF TOUR

Whilst the Australians at the top end of the tour embark on the grass-court season, there are plenty of Aussies battling it out on the ITF Tour as they bid to join their higher-ranked compatriots at the top end of the tour.


Let's take a look at the highest performing Aussies on the ITF Tour in 2022, starting with the men:


Australian Men's ITF Title winners in 2022:

Li Tu - 3

Omar Jasika - 3

Dane Sweeny - 2

Rinky Hijikata - 2

Jason Kubler - 2

Akira Santillan - 1


Li Tu:

26-year-old Li Tu has endured a meteoric rise up the ranks in the last 18 months. His story is remarkable. A talented junior, Tu left the game in 2014 and after six years off the tour, returned via the UTR circuit during COVID in 2020. His run in UTR tournaments was so exceptional that it earned him a main draw wildcard into the 2021 Australian Open despite being unranked.


18 months later, Tu is now on the verge of the top 300 in the ATP Rankings after a tremendous run on the ITF Tour. He has a 57/12 win/loss record and has claimed seven titles in his 19 tournaments since returning to the court in August last year.

Tu competed in his first ATP Challenger tournament since returning to the tour last week in Tunis, but was defeated in the first round of qualifying.

The Australian is certainly one to watch in the second half of 2022, but that may be on the Challenger Tour rather than the ITF Tour.

Current Ranking: 308 (Live Ranking: 307)

2022 ITF Titles: 3

Omar Jasika:


Victorian Omar Jasika has enjoyed a strong start to the 2022 season on the ITF Tour. Coming into the season unranked, Jasika has claimed three ITF titles and is closing in on a return to the top 400 in the ATP Rankings.

There’s no doubting the talent of 25-year-old Jasika. The Australian is a former US Open junior singles and doubles champion and also won a round at the Australian Open as a teenager. But a two-year ban from the game stalled his career, and almost ended it after what resulted in four years away from the tour.

Jasika returned in Canberra this year, where he reached the quarterfinals. He has since won three titles, reached an additional final and is priming himself for a strong second half of the season where provided his ranking continues to rise, we might see him back at Challenger level.

Current Ranking: 512 (Live Ranking: 472)

2022 ITF Titles: 3


Dane Sweeny:


21-year-old Dane Sweeny kicked off his 2022 season with a bang, winning back-to-back titles on the ITF Tour in Canberra.


Sweeny has since reached a semifinal and two quarterfinals at ITF level, continuing his steady rise up the ranks, where he has risen 100 spots in 2022.

The Australian’s form has dried up of late, with five wins and five losses in his last five tournaments, but the feisty New South Welshman has talent and can do some damage if he’s able to rediscover his best form in the coming months.

Current Ranking: 396 (Live Ranking: 399)

2022 ITF Titles: 2


Akira Santillan:


25-year-old Akira Santillan is back in form after claiming his first title in nearly five years last week in Monastir, Tunisia.


The Australian has been as high as 144 in the ATP Rankings (2017) but has endured a significant drop in form and in turn in the rankings since then.

Santillan had not competed at an ITF tournament since 2016 but has spent most of his time at the level in 2022 as he attempts to rediscover his form and rise back up the rankings. Along with his title, Santillan has reached two finals and two quarterfinals on the ITF Tour in 2022.


With last week's title, Santillan will rise 100 spots in the rankings from 495 to inside the top 400. Defending just six ranking points for the remainder of the season, the Australian has a serious opportunity to rise even further up the ranks.


Current Ranking: 495 (Live Ranking: 393)

2022 ITF Titles: 1


Rinky Hijikata:

21-year-old Rinky Hijikata is arguably Australia’s most exciting rising star on the ATP Tour.


The Sydneysider has enjoyed an outstanding first half of the 2022 season where he qualified for his maiden ATP Tour main draw, claimed two ITF titles, reached a final and most recently reached his maiden semifinal on the ATP Challenger Tour.

It is unlikely we will see Hijikata on the ITF Tour for the remainder of the 2022 season, and quite likely for the foreseeable future. He is certainly one to watch as he transitions to the Challenger Tour in 2022.

Current Ranking: 233 (Live Ranking: 239)

2022 ITF Titles: 2


James McCabe:

18-year-old James McCabe has had a fantastic start to the 2022 season on the ITF Tour and you could argue he's almost been the most impressive, consistent Aussie despite not winning a title yet.


In his seven ITF tournaments this year, McCabe has been defeated before the quarterfinal stage just once, reaching two finals, two semifinals and two quarterfinals.


McCabe has moved to the Challenger Tour in recent weeks as he attempts to qualify for the main draw at Challengers throughout Europe. He is one of the most exciting young Aussies on the tour and with a game that oozes class and plenty of x-factor, McCabe will be one to watch in the future, that's for sure.

Current Ranking: 522 (Live Ranking: 526)

2022 ITF Titles: 0

Tristan Schoolkate and Philip Sekulic are another two Aussies certainly worth tracking in the second half of 2022.


Now taking a look at the women's side:


Australian Women's ITF Title winners in 2022:

Jaimee Fourlis - 1

Priscilla Hon - 1

Destanee Aiava:

22-year-old Destanee Aiava has not featured on the tour since the Australian ITF tournaments in March, but providing she returns at some stage in 2022, she will be one to watch.


The Australian reached a quarterfinal and semifinal at the ITF tournaments in Australia earlier this year. There’s no doubting Aiava’s potential and as a teen was once touted as the next big thing in Australian tennis.

With a career-high ranking of 147 - which she achieved as a 17-year-old, Aiava will need to rediscover the form from her early years if she is to mount a climb back up the rankings.

Current Ranking: 471 (Live Ranking: 471)

2022 ITF Titles: 0

Kimberly Birrell:


24-year-old Kimberly Birrell is one to watch closely in 2022. The Australian is highly-talented and has performed whenever given the opportunity, but a treacherous run of injuries has derailed her career.


Most will remember Birrell for her exceptional 2019 Australian summer, where she claimed multiple top 50 scalps, including her first top 10 win, and reached the third round of the Australian Open.

In 2022, Birrell has returned to the tour via the ITF Tour, where she has reached three quarterfinals and a semifinal at the level. She also reached the final round of qualifying at the Australian Open. Providing she stays fit, Birrell is one of the more exciting Australians to follow in 2022.


Current Ranking: 483 (Live Ranking: 481)

2022 ITF Titles: 0


Zoe Hives:


Similarly to Kimberly Birrell, Victorian Zoe Hives has performed when given the chance but endured a treacherous run of health and injury battles that have derailed her career.

The Australian returned to the tour in 2022 after spending three years on the sidelines and has just departed Australia to take on the ITF Tour overseas.


Hives reached a career-high ranking of 140 in 2019 and providing she stays fit is certainly capable of reaching those heights again.


Current Ranking: 559 (Live Ranking: 554)

2022 ITF Titles: 0


Talia Gibson:


17-year-old Talia Gibson has enjoyed a fantastic start to the 2022 season on the ITF Tour, recently reaching her maiden singles final in Thailand.


The Australian has always been rated very highly and has shown glimpses of her potential this year.

Gibson reached the second round at four of the six ITF tournaments held in Australia post the Australian Open and with a maiden final in Thailand last month, she is certainly one to watch for the remainder of the year.


Current Ranking: 720 (Live Ranking: 724)

2022 ITF Titles: 0


Gabriella Da Silva Fick:


21-year-old Gabriella Da Silva Fick is coming off a quarterfinal at ITF level in Greece as she bids to climb up the WTA Rankings in 2022.


The Australian has a career-high ranking of 460 which she achieved last year and is currently overseas plying her trade as she attempts to eclipse her career-high rank.

Da Silva Fick was a highly-rated junior and claimed her maiden top 100 win in Melbourne last year against Aliaksandra Sasnovich, putting her on the map as one to watch on the ITF Tour in 2022.


Current Ranking: 677 (Live Ranking: 655)

2022 ITF Titles: 0


Teenager Taylah Preston will be one to watch in the second half of 2022 after reaching the third round of Roland Garros juniors. Fellow teen Charlotte Kempenaers-Pocz would've been one to keep a close eye on as well, but unfortunately, a serious ankle injury is likely to sideline the South Australian for the remainder of the season.