Thiago Monteiro ? Alex De Minaur ? Konstantin Kravchuk ? Omar Jasika ? Rogeiro Dutra Silva ? A player who went through the qualifying rounds ? There are numerous potential surprises in Melbourne. Especially as they are not so rare in the history of the tournament.
Quentin Halys (2016)
Precocious, but yet not quite known from the general audience. When Quentin Halys arrived with an invitation at last year’s Australian Open, not many could recognize his face. Only once had he just shown his talents at Roland-Garros in 2015, where he logically lost against Rafael Nadal. An ex-monster in the junior category, the 19 year-old Frenchman was then ranked 187th at the ATP race, and was awarded a wild-card. Opposed to the Croatian Ivan Dodig in the first round, the French produced an incredible performance in a match which almost lasted three and a half hours. As a result, he won his first match in a Grand Slam tournament, and a definitive entrance in the professional world, despite a logical defeat against Novak Djokovic in the second round. This year was a little bit different : the Frenchman was knocked by Sam Querrey in the first round.
Zhang Shuai (2016)
Before the start of the competition, Zhang Shuai was completely lost. At 26, she had only won two WTA titles, had never been past the first round of a Grand Slam tournament and was ranked at the 133rd spot. So she decided to make an official announcement : the 2016 Australian Open would be her last competition. Except that the one who won her three matches in the qualifying rounds had an exceptional boost of confidence and managed to reach the quarter finals, defeating, among others, Simona Halep (then the world number 2) and Madison Keys (world number 15). In the end, Johanna Konta ended her journey before she could reach the semi-finals. The 24 year-old Brit, who was in Melbourne for the first time only, had notably knocked out Venus Williams (world number 10) before losing in the semis. The two women are here again in 2017.
Stéphane Robert (2014)
Writing his name in the history books of Melbourne at 34 is something beautiful. By qualifying for the fourth round after being picked out as a lucky-loser after having lost in the qualifying rounds, Stéphane Robert became the first lucky loser to go this far in the tournament. After having defeated Michał Przysiężny and Martin Kližan, the Frenchman lost against Andy Murray, despite winning one set. Two years later, Robert proved his love for Melbourne once again - he’s never been past the second round in other Grand Slam tournaments - by once again going through the qualifying rounds (thanks to his game, this time), and by qualifying for the third round, where he was defeated by Gaël Monfils.
Brian Wilson (2007)
Practically nobody knows him, but he can say he’s played a Grand Slam tournament. It was in 2007, in Australia. While the American has won absolutely nothing during his career in the singles, and has only won Challenger tournaments in the doubles (five titles), he gave everything he had in the qualifying rounds to give himself the right to take part in the Australian Open. If he was logically defeated by Feliciano Lopez, he still managed to win a set. Not bad for a guy whose best ranking is the 232nd spot.
Márcos Baghdatís (2006)
In 2006, Márcos Baghdatís was still a promising youngster. He hadn’t won a single major title and his best performance was a qualification for the fourth round at the 2005 Australian Open. A year later, the Cypriot came back and made a huge impression, as he went all the way to…the final. Andy Roddick, David Nalbandian, Ivan Ljubicic or Radek Stepanek, they were all defeated by this 22 year-old kid’s talent. In the ultimate duel, Roger Federer even lost the first set, before setting the record straight (5-7, 7-5, 6-0, 6-2). In any case, the name Baghdatis is now in every tennis fan’s mind.
Rainer Schüttler (2003)
Rainer Schüttler was never a terror on the men’s circuit. A man in the shadows in the big tournaments, where he was nevertheless always present, he walked into the spotlights in 2003. In Melbourne, the German was the surprise of the start of the year after defeating Andy Roddick, David Nalbandian and James Blake to reach the final. Where he was sadly destroyed by Andre Agassi (6-2, 6-2, 6-1). But never mind : Schüttler remains the second German player, after Becker, to go this far at the Australian Open. Keeping everything in proportion, he managed to do it again, in 2008, with a semi-final at Roland-Garros. And that’s about it.
Thomas Johansson (2002)
Yes, Thomas Johansson was already a household name in 2002. But at 27 years-old, the Swede hadn’t yet managed to go beyond the quart-finals of a Grand Slam tournament. As a consequence, his victory in Melbourne was everything but expected. It must be said that fate was clearly going his way. World number 18 at the time, Johansson only faced opponents with a lower ranking. Until the last step, where Marat Safin, who wasn’t even featuring among the Top 10, was his ultimate opponent. Thomas won the final in four sets and wrote his name in the Australian Open’s glorious history.
Todd Martin (1994)
He hadn’t played a Grand Slam semi-final before his great adventure in 1994. His career had only started, but Todd Martin made quite an impression. His biggest feat occurred during the semi-finals, against Stefan Edberg : after a long fight, the American won the intense duel (3-6, 7-6, 7-6, 7-6). In the end, Pete Sampras deprived him from winning the trophy, but that wasn’t the most important.
Angélica Gavaldón (1990)
Zero title. Zero final. But two quarter-finals at the Australian Open. With the first being played at only seventeen, for her first participation in a tournament of this importance. After getting through the qualification rounds, Angelica Gavaldon knocked out Gigi Fernandez in the fourth round, before ending her nice journey with a defeat against Claudia Porwik. The rest of her career sadly wasn’t as bright.
Manuel Orantes (1968)
Before his final against Björn Borg at Roland-Garros in 1974, before his victory at the 1975 US Open, before his 33 titles and 38 finals played, there was this quarter final in Melbourne, in 1968. The beginning of everything for Manuel Orantes, whose career took off like a rocket. And who, as surprising as it sounds, never came back to play the Australian Open.