Sport Tennis Court short: Son of a gun, Andrew Harris kicks off local hopes at Australian Open

Court short: Son of a gun, Andrew Harris kicks off local hopes at Australian Open

Andrew Harris is set to make his debut at the Australian Open. Photo: AAP
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After winning two junior grand slam doubles crowns with Nick Kyrgios,  late bloomer Andrew Harris marks his Australian Open debut on Monday by being the first local player to take to the court on day one.

The son of former Australian Open women’s quarter-finalist Anne Minter, Harris will hardly have time to soak in the atmosphere as he faces eighth-seeded Italian Matteo Berrettini first up.

The 25-year-old Melburnian earned a wildcard after soaring up the rankings from No.400 at the end of 2018 to his current standing of 162 in the world.

Harris has taken a longer and vastly different route to the grand slam stage since winning the French Open and Wimbledon boys’ doubles titles with Kyrgios in 2012.

A graduate of the US college system, Harris honed his game under the guidance of Andy Roddick’s older brother John and came within a match of qualifying for the Wimbledon main draw last year.

He’ll have his work cut out against Berrettini, a US Open semi-finalist last year and the ATP’s most improved player of 2019.

But, win or lose, Harris is guaranteed $90,000 – the biggest cheque of his career.

If he can pull off a huge first-day boilover, the battler would pocket a minimum $128,000 – more than half his career earnings of $231,000.

Face it Barty, you’re the life of the party

Ash Barty arrived in Melbourne on Sunday before her opening match against Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko in the first match of Monday’s evening session on Rod Laver Arena.

And while fans will be hoping the local hope can be the first Australian woman to win the season-opening grand slam since Chris O’Neil in 1978, Barty is still coming to terms with being the face of the tournament.

Ash Barty after advancing to the Adelaide International final, which she won. Photo: AAP

The 23-year-old told reporters on Sunday she was already sick of seeing her face splashed across television, newspapers and billboards when she fronted her pre-tournament press conference on Sunday.

“When there’s so much excitement, there’s so much crowd involvement, it changes a little bit,” Barty said.

“I think just because we don’t get to play in Australia all that often.

“We get a month at the start of the year, then with Fed Cup every now and again you get a home tie.

I think it’s a bit of a feeling when you walk out on the court, it’s almost electric that the crowd’s involved, that I’ve got so much love and support from the crowd.

“It’s amazing … I think when they really get invested in the match, it’s really special.”

Tsurenko is ranked No.120 and got the better of Barty in their last meeting at the Brisbane International in 2018, but much has changed since then.

“I know I’ll have to be ready to go right from the start,” Barty said.

“Every experience I’ve had over the last 12 months will hopefully help me.

“We take all of the good memories from last year, but also understanding it’s a clean slate this year.”

Title favourite says emotional maturity is key to winning

Men’s title favourite and world No.2 Novak Djokovic says the new stars of tennis may not yet have made a grand slam breakthrough because they lacked on essential ingredient – “emotional maturity”.

Seven-time champion Djokovic is a short-priced favourite to win the Open, with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer only split by Russian Daniil Medvedev in the betting.

Djokovic insisted a number of players possessed the game to take the next step, but then zeroed in on what he thought were the missing ingredients.

“I think a lot of those next-generation players are working very hard, being very professional. That’s a good sign because that’s one of the precursors, I guess, for the success,” he said.

“But, at the same time, to win a slam and also to kind of be consistently on the top level for many years, it takes I think a player to gain that mental and emotional maturity and experience to understand his own strengths, to kind of fight his own fears, to really be able to maintain that level for a long time.”

Word on the tweet

Coming up next … Australians on court

Monday: Women’s singles, first round

1-Ash Barty v Lesia Tsurenko (UKR)

Sam Stosur v Catherine McNally (USA)

Lizette Cabrera v Ann Li (USA)

Monday: Men’s singles, first round

Andrew Harris v 8-Matteo Berrettini (ITA)

John-Patrick Smith v 22-Guido Pella (ARG)

Jordan Thompson v Alexander Bublik (KAZ)

John Millman v Ugo Humbert (FRA)

Marc Polmans v Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ)

Max Purcell v Jannik Sinner (ITA)

Tuesday: Women’s singles, first round

Ajla Tomljanovic v 31-Anastasija Sevastova (LAT)

Priscilla Hon v Kateryna Kozlova (UKR)

Astra Sharma v 28-Anett Kontaveit (EST)

Arina Rodionova v Kateryna Bondarenko (UKR)

Tuesday: Men’s singles, first round

23-Nick Kyrgios v Lorenzo Sonego (ITA)

Alexei Popyrin v 28-Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)

James Duckworth v Aljaz Bedene (SLO)

Chris O’Connell v 17-Andrey Rublev (RUS)

Alex Bolt v Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP)

-with AAP