Crowd favourite James Duckworth gave himself the best chance of making a mark at the Australian Open 2020 by winning the KPIT MSLTA Challenger Series title, beating Jay Clarke over three-action packed sets 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in a final spanning two hours and 18 minutes at the MSLTA School of Tennis hard courts on Sunday.
The triumph will push the Australian to 82nd when the rankings are released on Monday, granting him a direct entry into the main draw of his home Grand Slam in January.
Duckworth weathered a storm in the first set as Clarke proved quite competent in his serve-and-volley game. The second seed pulled himself up in the second set while the third set saw the players go into auto mode and produce winners. Both varied their shots, ventured to the net frequently, and tested each other with drop shots.
When match point was clinched with a backhand sliced passing shot to leave Clarke standing, Duckworth collapsed on the court facing the sky, kicking his legs in delight and relief as the fans rose to cheer a new champion in the sixth edition of the tournament.
Duckworth was richer by $7,200, valuable money for a Grand Slammer funding the Tour expenses from his own pocket. The runner-up earned $4,240.
In doubles, Ramkumar Ramanathan and Purav Raja, the top seeds, won as expected.
Ramkumar put behind his singles semifinal loss as he and Purav won an exciting final against compatriots Saketh Myneni and Arjun Kadhe. The winning combination earned $3,100 and the runner-up $1,800.
The results (finals):
Singles: James Duckworth (Aus) bt Jay Clarke (GBr) 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Doubles: Ramkumar Ramanathan & Purav Raja bt Saketh Myneni & Arjun Kadhe 7-6(3), 6-3.