Aussie qualifier releases Wimbledon dream
UNTIL this week, Andrew Whittington's most significant grasscourt singles success came on the pristine courts of northern Victoria.
The Williamstown right-hander followed a development rite of passage, contesting country carnivals at venues such as Swan Hill and Mildura.
Whatever specks of gold Whittington mined from his time in the bush have now grown to nuggets as he prepares to make his Wimbledon debut.
At 23, ranked 209th in the world, the amiable all-courter has cracked the big-time.
Guaranteed a minimum $64,000 in prizemoney, more than a third of his season earnings so far, Whittington will play Brazil's Thiago Monteiro after carving a remarkable passage through qualifying.
In the first round, he trailed France's Stephane Robert 1-4 in the third set.
In his next match, he dropped the first set to seasoned American Tim Smyczek before surviving another three-set cliffhanger.
And in the final round, extended to best of five sets format, Whittington was in a massive hole as he languished at two sets to love and, two match points, down against Denis Kudla.
"Tennis has its high and lows, that's for sure, and this is a definite high," he said after reaching the main draw.
"I've just got to keep everything in perspective and just embrace it as much as I can.
"Everyone was ecstatic back home.
"Robert, being top 50, and then Tim Smyczek, he's 'qualied' a couple of times and then Kudla, he's made the fourth round here.
"I had to do it the hard way and probably still can't actually believe I'm in the main draw but hopefully it will sink in.
"I just hung in there, believed in myself and found a way."
Next comes world No 98 Monteiro, who contested quarter-finals this season on clay in Rio and Buenos Aires.
"It's another great opportunity to come out here to Wimbledon for the first time," Whittington said.
"It's one of the better draws. I'm just happy I'm in the draw and I'm going to enjoy it as much as I can.
"Go out there and hopefully play my best tennis."
A Kooyong Tennis Club graduate, Whittington surged to prominence in January with Marc Polmans as the pair reached the Australian Open semi-finals.
The pair is hopeful of another big surge here, but face Bob and Mike Bryan in the opening round.
"We had a great run at the Aussie, so you never know," Whittington said.