Kubler ready to take the next step
Australian Open wildcard Jason Kubler’s wish of playing Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal in the first round didn’t come true when the main draw for Australian Open 2010 was announced earlier today.
Kubler did, however, have his name drawn alongside one of the 32 seeds – No.24 Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia.
In more than a decade on the ATP tour, Ljubicic has been ranked as high as world No.3, has won nine titles and is a former French Open semi-finalist and Australian Open quarter-finalist.
It’s a daunting proposition for anyone, let alone a 16-year-old playing in his first Grand Slam tournament main draw, but Kubler made some big steps in 2009, and believes he’s ready for the challenge. The Queensland native went on a 36-match winning rampage on the ITF Junior circuit that began in early July in Darwin and finished in November in Jeju-Do, South Korea.
The hot streak included five junior ITF titles and Australia’s Junior Davis Cup victory, in which he played a starring role.
“That [the Junior Davis Cup] was special to me, just representing the country and coming out victorious,” Kubler told australianopen.com.
More recently, Kubler has spent time as hitting partner to the stars at last week’s Brisbane International. Kubler withstood some searching hit-outs with Andy Roddick and James Blake in front of a growing number of interested onlookers keen to see Australia’s future share the court with the world’s present.
And while these experiences are a rare privilege for someone as young as Kubler, the teenager is not one to let it go to his head.
“I’m getting used to hitting with the big guys now ... I don’t think he [Roddick] was going full for them, but you could still see, especially with his serve, I think he was going three-quarter, but it’s still bloody fast.”
Roddick was also impressed with what he saw coming from the other side of the net: “He seemed like he had some good work on the ball and he just needs some opportunity.”
To prepare himself for the biggest challenge of his career to date, Kubler has been working with Queensland’s National Academy and spent some time with Pat Rafter, who believes Kubler will benefit from his Australian Open experience.
“He is our best player that we’ve got coming through with [Bernard] Tomic. He’s a great talent,” says Rafter.
“He may not do overly well here, but he needs to see what’s going on. He needs to play these matches and he needs to get the experience.”
No doubt Kubler will draw a lot from this experience as he begins to make the difficult transition from junior star (at No.3 on the junior rankings, he’s the highest-ranked 16-year-old in the world) to senior player.
When asked about making the step up to Grand Slam level and whether nerves will be an issue, Kubler responds honestly and sounds like someone ready to take that vital next step.
“The nerves will be there [before the match], but hopefully I can overcome that and play my best when I’m out there.”