Having endured his fair share of frustrations and bad luck, Jason Kubler couldn’t be blamed for wanting to throw in the towel at various stages of his professional career.
Multiple knee surgeries hampered Kubler’s progress after graduating from the junior ranks, forcing him to work as a tennis coach to survive financially.
But tenacity has always been one of Kubler’s strengths, and after the 29-year-old Kubler reached the second round for the first time at Melbourne Park, few winners deserved it on day one of the Australian Open.
Kubler, who had not played in the Australian Open since 2019, made his tournament debut by beating Argentina’s No. 44 Sebastian Baez 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 at John Cane Arena. It was the first victory in 13 years. Draw at age 16.
The result sparked a clash with Russia’s experienced 18th seed Karen Khachanov.
Kubler’s victory, along with an impressive five-set triumph by John Millman and Linkie Hijikata, lifted the spirits of Australian tennis fans following news of Nick Kyrgios’ withdrawal due to a knee injury.
“I think I’ve been injury-free for almost 18 months,” Kubler said at a press conference at Melbourne Park on Monday.
“That’s probably the number one reason. Getting out on the court gives me confidence.”
Kubler was ranked 203rd in the world last year, but has climbed consistently to a career-best 84th in the 2022 season.
He has played in every major tournament except the Australian Open, the highlight of which was his qualifying fourth round at Wimbledon.
Kubler, who won two United Cups with Australia, arrived at Melbourne Park in high form after completing the round of 16 at the second Adelaide International Tournament last week.
“I am proud of myself.
“Last year in my year, I was able to win rounds at the French Open, the US Open, and had a pretty special run at Wimbledon.
“In the last four Grand Slams, I’ve won matches in the main draw. If anything, I’m proud of that.”
Kubler Focused on Major
Kubler’s main goal for 2023 is to play in the majors. He admits he’s not obsessed with rankings.
The prize money for advancing rounds in the majors is also obviously attractive.
Kubler will bank $158,850 just to make the second round at Melbourne Park.
“My basic goal is to stay in the Grand Slam main draw,” he said.
“I would be happy if I could keep doing it the way tennis is doing well, because it’s the tournament that makes the most money. But I have really great ranking goals and things like that. I have never.
“Right now it’s about staying consistent, staying on the court, staying healthy, staying healthy, staying strong. At this point, I’m still kind of showing what I’m capable of. I have never experienced this situation before.
“I’ve never really gone through an injury-free 18-month block. I still feel like I’m improving. I feel like I’m learning from the situation.”
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