JOHANNESBURG – Lloyd Harris made a strong start in his bid to reach his second Grand Slam main draw with a comfortable win in his first qualifying match for the Australian Open.
South Africa’s second best singles tennis player swept past Zdenk Kolá of the Czech Republic in straight sets 6-2, 6-1.
The 22-year-old Harris will be looking to win his remaining two qualifying matches to be among the 16 men who advance to the main draw of the first Slam of the year starting in Melbourne on Monday.
Harris will be in action again tomorrow where he will lock horns with Germany’s Dominik Koepfer, who is ranked 161st in the world.
The South African slipped on the world rankings going into the new year after reaching a career high 110th place in 2018.
He has since recovered after reaching the quarter-finals of the Playford ATP Challenger in Australia last week.
The Cape Town-based player enjoyed his best year in 2018 since turning professional in 2015.
Harris won two ATP Challenger titles, the Kentucky Bank Championships in Lexington and Stockton Challenger in California.
He qualified for his first Grand Slam by earning a place in the main draw at the US Open, where he lost 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 to Gilles Simon of France.
To boost a stellar year, he claimed the biggest scalp of his career when he beat Frenchman Gael Monfils 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 in the first round of the Chengdu Open in September before bowing the knee to Australian Bernard Tomic, also in three sets.
Harris could join South Africa’s top singles player Kevin Anderson and doubles supremo Raven Klaasen in the main draw of the Australian Open.
Anderson made a stunning start to his 2019 campaign by winning the Tata Open Maharashtra trophy in Pune, India, on Saturday.
The 2018 Wimbledon finalist won his sixth tour-level title by beating Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic 7-6(4) 6-7(2) 7-6(5) in the tallest ATP Tour final of the Open era.
Klaasen and Kiwi doubles partner Michael Venus got their year off to a winning start by beating Dominic Inglot from Britain and Croatia’s Franko Skugor 6-3, 6-3 at the ASB Classic in Auckland yesterday.
They will face Argentina’s Guido Pella and Portugal’s Joao Sousa in the next round of the tournament tomorrow.
Meanwhile, world number two Angelique Kerber began her title defence at the Sydney International with a 7-6(3), 6-2 victory over Italian Camila Giorgi to reach the quarter-finals.
Kerber kicked off her 2019 campaign with four consecutive singles match wins at the Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia, last week, as Germany lost to Switzerland in the final of the mixed teams tournament.@Ockertde