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Tennis: Qualifiers boost Australia’s Wimbledon presence

Australia is guaranteed a strong singles presence at Wimbledon next week after multiple players qualified for the grasscourt grand slam.

Six more Australians have battled their way into Wimbledon on a successful day for the country’s fringe and emerging players.

Jason Kubler and Max Purcell were the first through, bolstering Australia’s already-strong men’s singles presence at Wimbledon to nine before their female compatriots took centre stage at Roehampton.

Zoe Hives received a free pass when countrywoman Priscilla Hon withdrew from their final-round clash with food poisoning, while Astra Sharma, Jaimee Fourlis and Maddison Inglis also booked their spots.

Sharma recovered from losing the first four games to 16-year-old sensation Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva to prevail 3-6 6-2 6-3 to make the main draw for a third time.

It will be world No.572 Hives’ maiden grand slam appearance outside of Australia after reaching round 2 at Melbourne Park in 2019 and overcoming a debilitating blood circulation disorder that stalled her career.

Fourlis had to stave off match points in her first-round qualifying match but had no such troubles this time around, beating France’s Jessika Ponchet 6-4 6-4 to cap her career-best season.

Four Australian women had not qualified for Wimbledon in the same year since 1983 but Maddison Inglis ended that drought when she overcame Serbian Natalija Stevanovic 7-6(7-2) 2-6 6-2.

Wimbledon was the only grand slam left for Inglis to make the main draw in, and the world No.129’s qualifying effort follows her career-best run to the third round of the Australian Open in January.

Kubler has now qualified at consecutive grand slams after making it into round two at this year’s French Open, while Purcell will make his Wimbledon debut.

It’s the second-straight year that two Australian men qualified for Wimbledon, after Chris O’Connell and Marc Polmans managed the feat in 2021.

World No.98 Kubler needed three sets to battle through each of his first two qualifying matches at nearby Roehampton but was more emphatic in beating Swede Elias Ymer 6-3 6-2 6-4 in barely two hours.

The second seed also qualified for Wimbledon in 2018 and has fought his way back inside the top 100 in recent weeks.

It was tougher going for Purcell, who rallied from repeated deficits throughout his match to outlast 122nd-ranked rival Nuno Borges 3-6 7-6(7-3) 6-4 7-6(7-5) and book his All England Club place.

The 24-year-old made the sacrifice of not defending his semi-final points from Eastbourne last year to chase his Wimbledon dream despite no points being up for grabs at the 2022 event.

But Rinky Hijikata was unable to match Kubler’s and Purcell’s feat, tumbling from a 5-1 third-set lead to lose 6-4 3-6 7-5 7-6(7-4) to Germany’s Nicola Kuhn.

Alex de Minaur, Nick Kyrgios, Jordan Thompson, James Duckworth, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Alexei Popyrin and John Millman earned direct entry to the men’s singles draw.

Hives, Sharma, Fourlis and Inglis made it six Australians competing in the women’s singles, on top of Ajla Tomljanovic and wildcard recipient Daria Saville.

The singles draws will be conducted on Friday night (AEST time) and matches will begin on Monday.

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