Jaimee Fourlis wins playoff final and earns wildcard entry to Australian Open
Melbourne teenager Jaimee Fourlis is heading to the Australian Open after recording a straight-sets victory over Abbie Myers in the playoff final on Sunday. She will be joined by Omar Jasika, who rebounded from a first-set meltdown to win a place in the men’s draw with a four-set win.
Fourlis, the world No425, defeated Myers 7-6 (8-6), 7-5 at Melbourne Park and will play in her first grand slam at the age of 17.
The win was sweet for Fourlis, who lost the final of the Under-18 Australian championship last week, which also carried Australian Open entry as a prize. She said it was a “pretty surreal feeling” to be preparing for a tournament alongside the the sport’s best players.
“It is an incredible feeling. I don’t know how to describe it,” she said. “I don’t really care [who I draw]. It’ll be an amazing feeling playing in front of a home crowd. I wouldn’t mind drawing an Aussie because then it’d be even. It’ll be awesome no matter what.”
In Sunday’s final, Fourlis showed her intent with a dashing down-the-line backhand winner in the match’s first point on the way to breaking Myers in the opening game but the 22-year-old returned fire and took Fourlis to an opening set tiebreak.
Myers, the world No600, lost a set point in the tight decider, and led for most of the second set after securing an early break. Fist-pumping along the way, Fourlis recovered to level the set and won it with a break in the 12th game.
Fourlis said spending time with Australian No1 Sam Stosur in training in recent months had rubbed off on her. “She’s one of the best – she hasn’t won a grand slam for nothing. She does everything right. I really look up to her and I respect her a lot,” she said.
Fourlis also guaranteed to at least quadruple her career earnings even with a first-round loss in the year’s first major, which will be worth at least $38,500.
Jasika, 19, stuttered early before steamrolling no-fuss Queenslander John-Patrick Smith 6-7 (2-7), 6-2, 6-0, 6-4 to ensure a return to the grand slam stage after successfully debuting at Melbourne Park this year with a second-round appearance.
Against Smith, the teenager’s precision baseline play delighted his rowdy ‘Omar’s Army’ fangroup. But it wasn’t always plain sailing for the world No367, taking on a player eight years and 137 rankings places his senior.
The former junior US Open champion was so frustrated by his tiebreak showing that he thrashed his racquet into the court for 10 seconds, earning a point penalty.
After the rage came the rally. From 2-2 in the third set, Jasika won 10 straight games, returning with poise and hitting smartly around the court. Smith found form in the fourth set, but gave up a break in the ninth game and with it, the match.
Sixteen-year-old world No388 Destanee Aiava, who defeated Fourlis in the Under-18 final, will be the first player born in the 2000s to play in a major.