BENGALURU: After missing 13 months of action in 2017-18 due to five surgeries including three on the foot, shoulder and elbow, Australia’s James Duckworth was unsure of his return to the ATP Tour. It was a challenge he wanted to ace. On the comeback trail, the 28-year-old won four out of six finals on the Challenger Tour last year and moved back into the top 100. On Sunday, Duckworth beat Benjamin Bonzi of France 6-4, 6-4 in the singles final here to clinch the Bengaluru Open title.
It guarantees him a career-high ranking in the high 70s. Before the injury, Duckworth had a good run of form, winning three Challenger titles in 2016. He also made it to the Australian Davis Cup team. Breaking into the top 70 was the aim but it all came crashing down. “It was a difficult period. The biggest challenge was the foot surgery. I could not run, jump or hop which are important in tennis. I had to learn how to run again on the court and had to change my game a bit,” said Duckworth, whose grandmother Beryl Penrose was an Australian Open champion in 1955. “Now, I feel, I am gradually improving my game. I’m trying to play aggressive tennis and looking to move top of the point and not defend so much. Also, I have been trying to stay healthy and that has been helpful.”
On Sunday, the Australian didn’t have the greatest of starts. He was broken in the third game but fought back and broke back in the next game. While the trend continued with the players coming up with strong returns and struggling to hold serve, Duckworth managed to hold his in the eighth game and then broke Bonzi in the ninth to claim the set. The second set was the opposite. Both players served well and could not return as well as they wanted. An unforced error forced Bonzi to surrender the fifth game and while he managed to break back, a double fault at a crucial juncture cost him the seventh game. Duckworth fired three aces to take the 10th game, set and the match for his 11th Challenger title. “Bonzi had a great week and beat a lot of seeded players.
I watched a bit of his footage and knew he was a tough opponent. As we both returned well, we also had to adjust to the conditions as the court was a bit slower than expected,” said Duckworth. “I am happy to have come out winner and pick up valuable ranking points. Overall, it was a good week.” Duckworth now wants to take the next step and play regularly in ATP 250 events and higher. For him, the next stop will be the Davis Cup (against Brazil). “Having been through what I have, I really appreciate what I have achieved. It feels a lot sweeter. I am looking forward to the Davis Cup. It was one of my goals. Now, with the rankings, I will be able to play a lot of ATP 250 tournaments. The target for the year will be to break into the top 50.”