For the first time in seven years there will be no local player in the third round of the Australian Open men\’s singles championship.
For the first time ever there will, at the conclusion of the Open, be no Australian male in the world\’s top 100.
The last of a group that seems to dwindle every year was Chris Guccione who lost his second round match on Tuesday after showing everything that everyone has hoped to see from him – for about 45 minutes.
Guccione won the first set from the talented Frenchman Gilles Simon, but then seemed to run out of ideas and desire, going down 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-1 6-2.
The 23-year-old Australian served well, moved well and was tactically sound for just about every game of the opening set.
And then it all began to disappear.
Simon was frustrated and uncertain and it showed in his early play.
But as Guccione admitted, the Frenchman then “got onto my serve”.
“It wasn\’t to be today,” Guccione said.
“He was hitting a lot of good passing shots, was getting onto my serve a bit.”
Simon is ranked 124 places higher than Guccione, a statistic that seemed to satisfy the Australian.
“It was no easy assignment out there.” he said.
“It was good to get a set, but I would have liked to have done a little bit better in the third and fourth sets especially.”
A lot better, perhaps.
This isn\’t the attitude that Jelena Dokic took into her match the night before.
Faced with an opponent ranked 169 places higher, and with a far from orthodox preparation behind her, Dokic got tough and won.
For Australian men\’s tennis, the picture – as the rankings reveal – has hardly been more grim.
Lleyton Hewitt is showing the strain of carrying the weight of a nation\’s expectation for most of this century.
Bernard Tomic revealed his awesome talent when he was 12 and as a 16-year-old he showed he probably has what it takes by becoming the youngest Australian male to win a singles match at the Open.
But he doesn\’t seem to be bringing too many through with him.
While the top 100 is now bereft of Australians, there are 16 Spanish players on the list, 14 Frenchmen, 10 Argentinians, seven Russians and the same number of Germans.
Tennis Australia (TA) and the Australian Institute Of Sport have been working on the problem for the past three years.
“We are rebuilding,” says TA\’s director of tennis Craig Tiley.
“We\’ve introduced many initiatives that have set the foundations for future success.
“Results take time and patience, but we are entering an exciting time for tennis in Australia.”
It will be possible to gauge the progress of the Tennis Australia program when Australia play Thailand in March in their bid to win back a spot in the World Group of the Davis Cup.
But with fewer than four players in the world\’s top 200, exciting times may still be a way off.