The Kooyong Foundation once again had strong representation across the various events at this year’s Australian Open.
It all started with Omar Jasika in the Singles Qualifying who was awarded the last wildcard into the event.
Going into the tournament the goal was to win one round to help build up his ranking and earn the valuable prize money on offer to help fund the expensive job of travelling the world playing the Challenger and ITF circuit events with hope of getting into higher events.
Battling his way to a first round three set win over Czech player Dalibor Svrcina, Jasika’s confidence started to grow.
Second round he took on the USA’s Zachary Svajda.
Tied at a set all with the heat of the day in full effect, Jasika grinded his way to another three-set victory.
With his dream of qualifying for the main draw of the Australian Open a real possibility, young gun Abedallah Shelbayh from Jordan stood in Jasika’s way.
After losing the first set 6-2, Jasika rallied behind a raucous home crowd filled with family and friends to win the second set 6-1.
It was Jasika’s fitness that proved to be pivotal in the third set as he wore down his younger opponent to close out the match, winning the decider 6-2 and realising his dream of qualifying for the AO main draw.
An exciting match up with world number nine Hubert Hurkacz on John Cain Arena awaited.
It was Jasika’s third AO main draw appearance, in a gallant effort matching it with the Polish star, Jasika went down 7-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Hurkacz served 24 aces, showing why he had the best serving statistics on tour in 2023.
Jasika’s efforts move him to 280s in the world and with no points to defend until April he is in a good place to make the qualifying cut for French Open and Wimbledon.
Marc Polmans received a wildcard into the singles main draw after his stellar 2023 season.
He drew inform Aussie Alexei Popyrin, going down 6-3, 7-6, 6-2.
Popyrin had too much fire power on the day for Polmans who was playing in his fourth main draw at the Australian Open.
Fortunately for the 26-year-old he still had the doubles and mixed doubles to come.
Pairing up with fellow Aussie James Duckworth, the team went down to the AO champions Rohanna Bopanna and Matt Ebden 7-6, 4-6, 7-6 in a titanic battle.
Polmans teamed up with young gun Aussie Olivia Gadecki for the second time at the AO, after making the Semi Final in 2023, the pair matched that excellent showing making a run to the Semi Finals once again before going down to second seeds Desirae Krawczyk and Neal Skupski 6-4, 6-1.
Former Grand Slam champion and tour veteran John Peers, making his 12th appearance at the AO made the second round of doubles with partner Harri Heliovaara and first round of mixed doubles with Kimberly Birrell.
The Kooyong Foundation had strong representation in the AO juniors’ event with three of our most promising girls participating.
Ava Beck (15) played the Junior Qualifying event, where she lost in the last round of qualifying.
Gabby Villegas played the Singles Qualifying event and was also awarded a wildcard into doubles after an excellent run in the traditional AO juniors ITF warm up event in Traralgon where she made Semi Finals with partner Lily Taylor.
Villegas/Taylor lost first round, but much will be gained from the experience for the 16 year old.
The same can be said for one of Australia’s best young talents Koharu Nishikawa.
The 14-year-old received a wildcard into both singles and doubles.
Playing in front of her home crowd in her first Grand Slam junior event brought some nerves for the all-court player.
She fought gallantly before going down to American player Mia Slama 6-2, 6-2.
“I wanted to play on the court for as long as possible rather than wanting to escape from the court, I will use this experience for my next challenge. I can’t wait to work hard and come back here.”