Aussie Open Qualies: 5 Men To Watch
Here are five of the men to keep an eye on throughout the qualifying week:
Radek Stepanek (CZE)
[Ranking No.102, Seed No.1]
Stepanek has already shown he’s come to play in 2017, coming out of qualifying to reach the quarterfinals of the tune-up event in Doha, where he was only stopped by eventual champion Novak Djokovic. And few in action this week have more credentials than the Czech veteran – 24 career Top 10 wins, a career-high ranking of No.8 himself, and he’s reached the second week of majors four times before (including a quarterfinal run at Wimbledon in 2006).
He’s also never lost in Grand Slam qualies – he’s made it into the main draw all three times he’s had to play these rounds before (Australian Open, French Open and US Open in 2016).
Frances Tiafoe (USA)
[Ranking No.107, Seed No.2]
One of America’s most promising young talents – he’s the second-youngest American man in the Top 200 after Stefan Kozlov – Tiafoe is looking for a breakthrough season in 2017, and it could all start at Melbourne Park. The 18-year-old is looking to qualify for his first main draw at the Australian Open, having already made main draws at the French and US Opens. Could working with former US Open semifinalist Robby Ginepri help propel him to new heights?
Vasek Pospisil (CAN)
[Ranking No.131, Seed No.19]
Pospisil may have lost some momentum in 2016 – he was Top 40 at this time last year, and now nearly 100 spots lower – but it was only a few years ago he was a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon and knocking on the door of the Top 20, going as high as No.25 in the world in 2014. And with Aussie legend Mark Woodforde in his corner now, can the young Canadian reannounce himself to the tennis world with another deep run at a major Down Under?
Brian Baker (USA)
[Ranking No.244, Unseeded]
One of the biggest feel good stories in American tennis over the last year, Baker – who’s had 11 surgeries throughout his career, including operations on both hips and both knees – made a long-awaited return to the tour at the start of 2016, having been out since the 2013 US Open. Unranked at this point a year ago, he’s now back up to No.244 in the world, with a goal of staying healthy and one day breaking the Top 50 (he’s been as high as No.52…)
Jurgen Melzer (AUT)
[Ranking No.296, Unseeded]
Like Stepanek, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more accomplished player in the qualies than Melzer – he’s also been as high as No.8 in the world, and he’s a Grand Slam semifinalist too, going that far at the 2010 French Open. He’s fallen on hard times recently – he underwent shoulder surgery in November 2015 and only rejoined the tour in June 2016 – but since then he’s had impressive wins over the likes of Dominic Thiem and Roberto Bautista Agut, and given he’s reached the second week of Slams five times before, he’s one to watch this week.