Bolt hails ‘dream come true’ with home victory

14 January 2020, by Alex Sharp

Adelaide local Alex Bolt was in dreamland having posted his opening victory on the site he grew up watching tennis on.

Around an hour out of town, Bolt is from Murray Bridge, with a host of friends and family packing into the Memorial Drive Tennis Centre to witness his 6-4, 2-6, 6-0 passage past lucky loser Stephane Robert.

“It really is a dream come true, I grew up watching the old ATP tournament when it was here,” revealed the 27-year-old. “So to be playing here as a pro is a dream come true.

“That’s the art of tennis really, you never really know what will happen.

“I started well, but I’m pretty disappointed how my energy levels fell in that second set, but I’m very happy how I managed to bounce back in the decider.”

Bolt enjoyed a breakout Australian Open last summer, reaching the third round in thrilling fashion, and the world No.157 is eager to replicate those heroics in front of his home crowd this week in Adelaide.

“I definitely feel the draw has opened up, a few top guys have had to pull out,” added Bolt, who tackles the challenge of Jan-Lennard Struff in the second round. “I’m going to back myself in every match I play and hopefully I can keep getting the win.”

Struff and Salvatore Caruso are close friends having previously been teammates in German club cup tennis, they communicate on a Whatsapp group chat, but that was all put aside on Show Court 1 for their first-round encounter.

Struff started 2020 with a strong showing in the ATP Cup against high calibre players and retained that form in Adelaide with a 6-4, 6-2 win against the world No.94 Italian.

“I’m very happy with my game and style, I’m playing very aggressive, very offensive. At the beginning of the new year everyone is trying to find the rhythm, trying to look where he is,” said the 29-year-old. “So it’s very important to be there in the first matches and don’t say, ‘okay, it’s the first match of the year, I don’t know what to do’, just go out and play 100 per cent full and then you will see what do you get.”

Struff bemoans scheduling mistakes and lower mental fortitude for a first round exit at Australian Open 2019, but the world No.37 used it as a turning point.

“That was obviously one of the hardest lessons last year,” continued Struff. “You can be prepared but tough losses will come at any point. I’m proud the way I played the year in the weeks and months after Melbourne. It’s always better to switch your mentality to a positive after a tough loss, which proves I’m now very mentally strong.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Sydneysider Jordan Thompson succumbed to the relentless consistency and resilience of Albert Ramos-Vinolas in a 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3 victory for the Spaniard.

The lefty world No.42, playing in his first match of the season, dictated play with his scooping forehand to lead by a set and a break.

Thompson cut away a series of acute volleyed winners to wrestle away the initiative and broke back by edging a lung-bursting 32-shot rally.

The Australian was digging deep and managed to force a tie-break, overturning a 3-5 deficit to level the scores. However, Ramos-Vinolas reset to secure the telling advantage for 3-1 in the decider, ending a valiant effort from Thompson.

“First match of the season, was very tough against Jordan, who is such a difficult opponent. I’m very happy because I did a lot of work in pre-season and it helped, it was a good match for me,” reflected Ramos-Vinolas, who was part of Spain’s ATP Cup squad.

“I had the chance to practice with some of the best players in the world. On the other hand it was two weeks without matches, practising with the team, so today was perfect to use that practice.”

Playing at a career-high ranking of world No.33, Dan Evans is thriving down under.

The Brit put in some spectacular performances at the ATP Cup, most notably toppling home favourite Alex de Minaur in a thriller, and has transferred that level to Adelaide.

On court the 29-year-old met the mercurial Alexander Bublik, the winner in their past two previous encounters, both in 2019.

However, Evans dominated the proceedings in a 7-5, 6-2 scoreline to chalk up a second successive straight sets victory.

“I’m so happy to come through as I’ve had trouble with him in the past, just happy to played pretty good,” added Evans, who will arrive at Melbourne to be seeded at a Grand Slam for the first time.

“Whenever you’re playing a lot of matches, it means you’re normally winning. It’s brilliant that I’m on court so much, I’m hitting the ball well so I’ve got to be happy.”

Evans’ reward is a clash with either Doha champion Andrey Rublev or towering American Sam Querrey.