He missed lunch – but Aussie Bolt can dine at Wimbledon

Ian Chadband |

Called up to play at late notice, Alex Bolt has enjoyed a wild journey into Wimbledon’s main draw.
Called up to play at late notice, Alex Bolt has enjoyed a wild journey into Wimbledon’s main draw.

A last-minute stand-in at Wimbledon qualifying, Australian Alex Bolt has stormed all the way into the men’s main draw, sealed by an “unreal” comeback triumph from match-point down in his final round.

The green-and-gold challenge was further boosted on Thursday as Olivia Gadecki also made it into the big show at SW19 next week by winning her third-round women’s singles at the cut-throat Roehampton qualifying event to ensure there’ll be 13 Aussies at the grass-court grand slam.

Bolt, the 31-year-old South Australian from Murray Bridge, produced one of the “top two” performances of his tennis life to rally from two sets down, surviving a match point, to beat rising Swiss Leandro Riedi 6-7 (7-9) 2-6 7-6 (9-7) 7-5 6-4 and book his place among the SW19 elite next week.

“You couldn’t write a better script for the journey I’ve had this week,” beamed the Davis Cup veteran.

For it was the culmination of a wholly improbable tale, with Bolt, on the alternates list, having resigned himself to missing the qualifiers on Monday, only to be called at 10.50am to replace a late withdrawal, Monaco’s Valentin Vacherot, for an 11am start.

“I was actually about to go get a feed at the restaurant when my name got called over the loudspeaker saying someone had pulled out, so I had 10 minutes to get my whites on and get on court,” he recalled.

He went on to beat Argentina’s Nicolas Kicker 6-1 6-4 and then, on Wednesday, defeated German Rudolf Molleker by the same scoreline.

Yet the great adventure looked doomed as Riedi, two sets up, held a match point at 6-5 in the third-set breaker on Thursday.

Olivia Gadecki says it’s a dream to make her first Wimbledon main draw. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

Instead, Bolt produced a “clutch” serve, the launchpad for a tremendous comeback in his first five-set match for over four years as he prevailed after a draining three-hour 41-minute duel. 

“Just super proud of my efforts just to hang around in the match.

“I let opportunities in the first set slip and I kinda let that take control of my mind for the next hour and a bit, and then he got the second set as well playing really good tennis. I kept hanging around, managed to turn the tides … yeah, unreal.”

Asked where his triumph rated in his career, Bolt smiled it was in the top two, maybe just behind his second-round Australian Open triumph over world-class French operator Gilles Simon in 2019 when he saved four match points.

Thinking of being at Wimbledon for a third time, Bolt mused: “I’ve got all the confidence in the world right now. I shouldn’t even be in the tournament, so I’ve got nothing to lose.”

Neither has Gadecki, the 22-year-old Gold Coast player who hung tough to beat Frenchwoman Elas Jacquemot 7-5 4-6 6-3 and earn her Wimbledon main draw debut alongside national No.1 Daria Saville and wildcard Ajla Tomljanovic.

“It means so much to be playing at Wimbledon, you really work at these moments and to be able to walk through those gates for a main draw match is something I;ve dreamt about my whole life,” said the world No.177.

There will now be 10 Australian men in the singles main draw, the biggest contingent for six years, but in-form fourth seed James Duckworth was disappointed to be beaten by rising Estonian Mark Lajal 6-4 6-4 6-4.

Maddison Inglis, beaten 6-4 6-2 by Ukraine’s Yulia Starodubtsewa, and Talia Gibson, hammered 6-0 6-1 by American top seed Katie Volynets, also both fell at the final hurdle in the women’s qualifiers.