top of page

CAN A QUALIFIER GO DEEP AT THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN? HISTORY SAYS YES


Qualifying is complete for next week’s Australian Open with 32 hardworking men and women earning their way into the main draw.


For many that will have been their main goal, while for others going deep in the tournament won’t be beyond their abilities or expectations.


Those who qualify can be tricky competitors as they’ve played three tough matches in tournament conditions on-site.


Since the 1988 introduction of Melbourne Park as the home of the Australian Open, 23 qualifiers have made it to the second week of the tournament.


We take a look at the best of these runs


Aslan Karatsev - Semi Finals 2021


Aslan Karatsev had spent eight years as a tennis journeyman going into the qualifying of the Australian Open in 2021. The 27 year old was ranked 114 and had never qualified for the main draw of a grand slam.


In qualifying he had a tricky three-setter against Nakashima before taking care of Australia’s own Max Purcell as well as Alexandre Muller to make the main draw. What happened next was extraordinary.


He won his first three rounds in straight sets including taking out 9th ranked Diego Schwartzman and destroying Egar Gerasimov 60 61 60.


Down two sets to love against Auger-Aliassime in the round of 16, it looked like his giant killing run was over, before he stormed back to take out an epic five-setter to move into the quarter finals.


There he took out 18th seed Grigor Dimitrov in four before ultimately falling to the eventual champion Novak Djokovic in straight sets.


This would set off a huge year for Karatsev who would win three titles in the next 12 months and reach a career high of world number 14.


Zhang Shuai - Quarter Finals 2016


Zhang Shuai had been a regular on the tour for almost a decade when she arrived at Melbourne Park in 2016.


A loss of form the year before had seen her drop out of the Top 100 and forced into qualifying for the Australian Open.


After a tough 8-6 in the third victory over France’s Virginie Razzano in the final round of qualies, she would then face world number 2 Simona Halep in the 1st round.


Zhang had previously never won a Grand Slam match, losing 14 straight since 2008.


She shocked the world by taking out Halep in straight sets 6-4 6-3, before going on to easily account for Alize Cornet and Varvara Lepchenko.


Her fourth round opponent was another seed, Madison Keys, and she battled through in three tough sets to make the quarter finals.


Johanna Konta would stop her giant killing run, but Zhang’s efforts were the equal best result for a female qualifier at the Australian Open at Melbourne Park.

She would go on to reach number 23 in the world, make the quarter finals of Wimbledon and take out two Grand Slam doubles titles with Australia’s own Sam Stosur.


Angelica Gavaldon - Quarter Finals 1990


Angelica Gavaldon from Mexico arrived at the Australian Open aged just 16 and ranked 189 in the world.


She qualified for her first grand slam with two wins which included a victory over a young Magdaelna Maleeva.


Her first round was a victory over unseeded American Laxmi Poruri before taking out lucky loser Karin Kschwent from Luxembourg.


In the third round she faced four-time grand slam champion Hana Mandlíková who had naturalised as an Australian in 1988. She defeated the home crowd favourite in a see-saw 6-1 1-6 6-1 battle.


In the fourth round she accounted for 15th seed Gigi Fernandez in three sets to make the quarter finals in her grand slam debut.


She would lose to Germany’s Claudia Porwick to end her dream grand slam start. Angelica would go on to make the quarters at the Australian Open again in 1995 (taking out Jana Novotna) and reaching a career high of number 34 in the world.


Goran Ivanisevic - Quarter Finals 1989


Goran was just 17 years old and ranked 300 in the world going into the Australian Open qualifying in 1989.


After three comfortable qualifying wins, which included Aussies Glen Kellett and Glen Eaton, he found himself in just his second grand slam draw (he debuted at Wimbledon in 1988).


After taking out fellow qualifier Magnus Larsson in four sets he faced the 15th seed and Australia’s own John Fitzgerald.


He defeated the crowd favourite in four sets and then comfortably took out Tom Nijssen from The Netherlands to set up a round of 16 showdown with unseeded Leonardo Lavalle.


It was a prime opportunity for both and their open draw was helped by the upset of number 1 seed Mats Wilander earlier in the tournament.


In an epic five-setter, Goran came back from two sets down to win the match and reach the quarter finals.


There he was taken out by Miloslav Mecir in straight sets. Goran would go on to be Wimbledon champion and world number 2, but he never exceeded that quarter final result in Melbourne.


Other runs of note:


Marcos Baghdatis - 4th Round 2005


Marcos arrived in Melbourne ranked 155 and comfortably made it through qualifying. In the main draw he defeated Federico Luzzi, 22nd seed Ivan Ljubicic and 13th seed Tommy Robredo before falling to Roger Federer.


He would meet Roger again one year later at the Australian Open, but this time in the final after a giant killing run which saw him defeat Stepanek, Roddick, Ljubicic and Nalbandian.


Fernando Gonzalez - 4th Round 2002


Ranked 140, Fernando breezed through qualifying rounds in straight sets before taking out Sargis Sargisian, 32nd seed Tommy Robredo and fellow qualifier Alex Kim (who had defeated Kalfenikov in round 2).


He would fall to Stefan Koubek in the 4th round, but Fernando’s run set up a love affair with the Australian Open that would see him make the final just five years later.


Wayne Ferreira - 4th Round 1991


Aged 19, Wayne was world number 173 when he defeated Kiwi Steve Guy and Aussie Charlton Eagle on his way to the main draw in Melbourne.


He had a charmed run taking out Fernando Luna, Lars-Anders Wahlgren and Jacco Eltingh, who were all ranked outside the world’s Top 100, to make the 4th round.


He lost to Becker in three tight sets but it would be a sign of things for the South African.


The following year he made the semi-finals unseeded and would do so again 11 years later in the twilight of his career.


The Champions


Although their runs only saw them make the 3rd round, three women’s champions had their qualifying moments before taking the crown.


Lindsay Davenport made the 3rd round as a qualifier in 1993 before winning the title in 2000.


2016 champion Angelique Kerber had her 3rd round run as a qualifier in 2010 while Naomi Osaka took just three years, following her last 32 appearance in 2016 as a qualifier, to win the title.


She would repeat her 2019 victory again in 2021.


So will we see a qualifier make the second week at this year’s Australian Open? It’s happened 23 times in the last 35 years which averages out to every 1.5 editions.


With no qualifier making the fourth round or beyond in 2022, we may just be due another special performance.

Comments


bottom of page