After Australians completed a clean sweep of qualifying in Zhuhai on Wednesday, Alex Bolt could not help but marvel at the feat of his compatriot Luke Saville.
Or, more accurately, his feet and the amount of liquid the Australian sweated from them.Saville, who plays 5th seed Tomas Matin Etcheverry in an opening round encounter at the Huafa Properties Zhuhai Championships, somehow managed to win a match wearing five different sets of shoes.
The former Wimbledon boys champion was forced to borrow his coach’s shoes in the deciding set of victory over Stefanos Sakellaridis in a match played in stifling conditions at the Hengqin International Tennis Centre on Tuesday.
Saville’s feet sweated so profusely his shoes were soaking and, even though one pair was two sizes too big, the Australian felt more comfortable in borrowed footwear.
“I am pretty sure he had to use two other people’s shoes,” Bolt said.
“I don’t quite sweat as much as Luke, so hopefully I don’t have to do that. But he managed to find a way through.”
Bolt, who will play former top 10 ranked Argentinian Diego Schwartzman on centre court on Thursday, is delighted to be back in an ATP Tour main draw along with his Aussie mates.The talented left-hander, who reached the 3rd Round of the Australian Open in 2019, had major elbow surgery last year.
It has been a challenging road back to the tour, with the 30-year-old hindered by niggling injuries, but the late-blooming Australian feels capable of making ranking inroads now.
“This year has been very challenging for me, just trying to keep myself healthy and play some consistent tennis,” Bolt said.
“It has not been easy, but now that my body is a bit healthier now, I am trying to value these weeks where my body is feeling good and play some good tennis.”
Fellow Australian qualifiers Marc Polmans and Dane Sweeny will play each other in the opening round on Thursday.
Bolt said the ranking breakthroughs of compatriots including Aleksandar Vukic, Max Purcell and Rinky Hijikata was inspiring those outside the top 100.
“We are a pretty tight knit bunch of guys and to see all these guys break through … it makes us guys who are outside the top 100 believe that we can do it as well,” he said.
“I think Aussie tennis is in a really good place right now.”
In main draw action on Wednesday, 8th seed Yoshihito Nishioka overcame a slow start against Terence Atmane to set up a 2nd Round clash against Lloyd Harris, who was too strong for Jiri Vesely in the return of elite tennis to China after a four-year hiatus.
“(The) first set, he was playing unbelievable. (But) I knew my time would come and he was not going to be able to play at that level until the end,” Nishioka said.
“If he did, I would have no chance. The biggest difference was not the technique. It was the experience.
“From the second set, I played some important points … and he started to miss easier balls and it gave me a chance. I am not giving up and I still believed I could beat this guy.”
In Day 2 highlights at the Huafa Properties Zhuhai Championships, dual-Wimbledon champion Andy Murray faces Chinese wildcard Mo Ye Cong, while rising Chinese star Shang Juncheng will tackle 6th seeded American Mackenzie McDonald in the night session.