CULPH MEDIA- Jade Culph
AUSTRALIAN OPEN QUALIES 2017
Some Raw Gems to be found
The Australian Open Tennis Championship is scheduled to get under way on Monday the 16th. Well that’s when the event officially opens. The usual top players will be popping up on TV screens and fans will be cheering and getting excited. One can’t help but get excited at first round matchups and to see their favourite players move through the draw. But if you are to take a closer look behind the scenes you will notice that the action is already firing and if you happened to be walking around the grounds at Melbourne Park and you know a thing or two about tennis you would have noticed some real raw young talent that will be coming to a TV screen near you sooner then you think.
Yes the qualifying draw is in full flight and there are some raw gems to be found amongst the pack. I will be talking to you about ones that I have seen that have moved thru to the final round of qualifying and are looking to impact immediately.
Frances Tiafoe is an 18 year old from the United States who breezed into the last round today. He is a strong baseline type player that is wearing players down with his physicality. American tennis is looking at a real resurgence with an entire fleet of up and comers coming through. Which ones will force their way through is yet to be seen but Tiafoe is leading the charge for the American qualifiers and wanting to break into the Top 100 now rather then later.
Duckhee Lee is an 18 year old Korean prospect who is into the last round of qualifying. He possesses lightning speed and compact ground strokes off the deck. He also possesses a fighting spirit that any warrior would be proud of. What is even more remarkable is that Lee is completely deaf. He cannot hear the umpire or linesman but he is a prodigious talent and at just 18 you will be seeing a lot more and maybe as early as Monday. A quick look at his court today and my mind was made up that this is a player to take note of.
Same situation happened yesterday. The day was drawing to a close and I decided to stick my head in and take a look at Court 22. It was Round 1 qualifying but there was a kid by the name of Casper Rudd who caught my eye. The last name looked familiar and it is the son of Christian Rudd. Young Casper was explosive around the court and unloaded on some monstrous forehands that demands attention. He was making short work of a much more experienced Touring Pro and he looked comfortable doing it. It did not take long to see the flowing game, the confidence and the positive energy oozing from Rudd’s pores. His presence and demeanour alone said that he will be a household name sooner rather then later.
Last but certainly not least there is Alexander “Sasha” Bublik from Kazaksthan. After a long hard fought tussle under lights tonight in Round 2 the towering 19 year old moved into the final round. Big Sasha stands at around 6 foot 5 and when he wants to serves absolute cannons which will certainly test those that come against him. I spent quite a bit of time working with Sasha on his game recently at the Davis Cup Training Camp with the Kazaksthan National Team in Delray Beach, Florida. A Pre-season training block in December in preparation for the ATP and WTA Tour seasons. Sasha is super competitive which is what I love about him. He wants to win at everything he does. Whether it is marbles, cards, volleyball or tennis Sasha wants the victory. But with a game tailor made for the modern era with a monstrous first serve and a devastating forehand that he can rip through the court with high velocity it is a dangerous package and a real handful to counter. Bublik also moves well for somebody his size with a long reach that enables him to play solid defense as well. When he is able to lock in mentally and reduces basic errors he is extremely dangerous in anyone’s language. Sitting court side tonight it was impressive to see him serve his way out of an uncomfortable position on the scoreboard. Once he relaxed and was in more of a flow he was destructive. He like the other 3 I mentioned is into the last round of qualifying.
So the moral of the story is don’t be fooled by the usual status quo when the main draw starts on Monday. Look beneath the surface and pay even your slightest attention to some raw nuggets that with a little time will be rounding into some valuable gems. These 4 prospects that I have mentioned from different parts of the globe will be impacting sooner rather then later.
You have been warned.