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Rising Aussie Aleks Vukic’s gruelling year on tennis tour


Aleks Vukic will end this year with a career-best ranking, but he explains why it was also the toughest of his career.

There was a taste of home for Aleks Vukic at the very end of what was the toughest year of his tennis life.

And this Sydneysider knows what tough is.

Vukic grinded away in some of the world’s most obscure – and sometimes dangerous – locations to give himself a shot at the kinds of breakthroughs he’s achieved in the past 24 months.

Now 25, he is at a career-best ranking of No.156, having spent nine-straight months on the road after playing in the Australian Open main draw for the first time.

A purple patch across his last seven tournaments propelled him to his new ranking after he also went within one win of qualifying for the French Open in consecutive years.

The last of them was an ATP Challenger event in Champaign, Illinois, where Vukic played college tennis and was a three-time All-American.

He lost a second final in three weeks to American nemesis Stefan Kozlov, but it still qualified as one of the highlights of his year.

“You don’t get too many of those moments and even though I lost, it felt awesome,” Vukic told News Corp.

“There were probably five or six guys who played with me that were there, then some of the people from the community and a few of the coaches as well.

“That’s the feeling I’ll hopefully get here (in Australia) as well.”

There were extra challenges beyond Vukic having to be away for so long because of Covid-19-related border restrictions.

There was his freak injury in April while sightseeing in Italy – a back-related hamstring issue sustained while running towards stairs – then he contracted Covid in August and was ruled out of the US Open.

So while Vukic deliberately picked nicer places to play in this year, the longing for home was ever-present.

“When you’re travelling to these random places, everyone has goals to try to crack a certain ranking and you’re doing it for a purpose,” he said.

“But you also know that if you grind for a little bit, you can come home for two weeks to reset.

“It was more the unknown this year of not being able to come back that made it tough.”

Vukic is the second-highest-ranked Australian man outside the top 100 and in prime position to score a wildcard into next month’s Australian Open.

But while four Australian women have already secured a wildcard, Vukic and co. are still waiting on the men’s side.

“From what I’ve heard, they’re waiting until after the first week (of tournaments),” he said.

“The more exposure you get to these top events and top guys (the better). I have as much chance as anyone who can get a wildcard to do well.

“I’m obviously there for the experience, but I’m also trying to make the most of it.”

Originally published as Australian Open 2022: Sydney’s Aleks Vukic details how the ‘unknown’ made this year the toughest of his tennis life



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