A look at six intriguing 2021 Australian Open qualifiers
With the 2021 Australian Open qualifying event over, there is a clearer picture regarding participants and more importantly, underdogs capable of producing the next big upset in Melbourne.
Although every player has the potential to stun a higher-ranked opponent, the following athletes each have a unique case or motivation to perform well at the first Grand Slam of the season.
6. Carlos Alcaraz
The Spaniard made history last year by becoming the first player born in 2003 to win an ATP match, by defeating compatriot Albert Ramos Vinolas in the first round of the 2020 Rio Open, at just 16 years old.
This will be Alcaraz's maiden Grand Slam event, and all eyes will be on the teenager as he has drawn comparisons to a young Rafael Nadal.
5. Tsvetana Pironkova
One of the few mothers on the WTA Tour, Pironkova is no stranger to success at Grand Slams. Prior to taking her maternity leave in 2017, the Bulgarian had defeated Top-10 players en route to her first WTA title at the 2014 Sydney International. Furthermore, she has reached the Wimbledon semifinals (2010) and French Open quarterfinals (2016).
Upon her return to tennis, Pironkova reached the quarterfinals of the 2020 US Open, losing to fellow mom Serena Williams in three tight sets. Should the former World No.31 regain her form, she will definitely be considered a danger regardless of her opponent.
4. Sara Errani
The former World No.5 has battled injuries over the past few years, which has seen her ranking fall outside the Top 100. However, the Italian is a former Grand Slam finalist (French Open 2012) and reached the US Open semifinals that same year. With nine career singles titles and a whooping 27 doubles titles, Errani will be looking to improve on her second round showing at last year's Roland Garros.
3. Elias Ymer
Possibly the least known qualifier, Ymer has been competing on the Tour for six years. The Swede is yet to win an ATP singles title, although he has 12 ATP Challengers and Futures titles to his name. Once coached by two-time Grand Slam finalist Robin Soderling, the 24-year old relies on his speed and ball-striking to dictate play. With nothing to prove and all eyes on other well-known talent, this could finally be the year that Ymer makes his mark at a Grand Slam.
2. Timea Babos
Considered by many to be strictly a doubles specialist, Babos has quietly amassed a solid career in singles. With a career-high ranking of World No.25 and three singles titles to her name, the Hungarian is considered a threat due to her variety of shots and prowess at the net. Not only will she be looking to defend her Australian Open doubles title, but the 27-year will also likely make some noise in the singles event.
1. Bernard Tomic
Eye-roll. Yes, Tomic has been labeled a bust and branded lazy or unmotivated. However, the Aussie's best Grand Slam results have come at home, with him reaching the fourth round on numerous occasions.
Furthermore, the 28-year old showed heart and determination during his qualifying matches, scratching and clawing his way through each encounter. Perhaps this is a sign that Tomic is ready to prove the naysayers wrong. Given the unique circumstances surrounding the event this year, anything could happen.
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