Injury-free Jason Kubler accomplishes his dream at the US Open

Tennis - The 25-year-old is ranked inside the Top 100 for the first time and he grabbed his maiden Grand Slam win

by Jovica Ilic
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Injury-free Jason Kubler accomplishes his dream at the US Open

32 players have won their first round matches on Monday in New York but only a few of those were happier than the Australian Jason Kubler. A former junior star had struggled with knee injuries for years, unable to play on the hard courts and sticking to clay where he was fighting for points and some money that would keep him running.

That all changed in the last 12 months and Kubler has made an impressive progress, gaining some 845 positions on the rankings list in the last year and being able to play on every surface and prove his talent and skills without further injuries or setbacks.

Now, he is a Top 100 player with a Grand Slam win, defeating Roberto Bautista Agut in straight sets for his first win at Majors years after making his debut as the talented junior. The best things are yet in front of this hard-working man but the time is perfect to take a memory lane through his career and all the ups and downs he had to deal with. The 25-year-old Brisbane native was supposed to be one of the leading players of the new wave of the Australian tennis but he was just another young competitor who couldn't make a flawless transition from junior to pro tennis.

Plagued with knee injuries that forced him to hit rock bottom a few times in his young tennis life, Jason always kept coming back, determined to endure in his efforts and accomplish at least a decent career. The end of 2017 had brought some positive signs and that gave him hope there's more to come in the next season, fully ready to show that to the tennis world.

Kubler was one of the most prominent players born in 1993 and he was the leading junior in the spring of 2010, ending his junior career a year later at Wimbledon where he reached the semis. In the same time, Jason started to gather pro experience, making his debut at Australia F7 Futures in Gympie at the age of 15 and trying to qualify for a few more Futures events at home in both 2008 and 2009, with no success.

The start of 2010 season was rather busy for Kubler, having a chance to play in the qualifying draws of Brisbane and Sydney, also receiving a wild card for the Australian Open main draw where he won five games against Ivan Ljubicic.

In May, he advanced to his first Futures final at home in Ipswich, losing to Bryden Klein, and he ended the season inside the Top 600 after four more semi-finals in clay European Futures. Instead of moving forward on the ATP rankings list, Kubler experienced first knee problems in 2011, competing in just 12 Futures and 11 of these on clay in order to save his body and avoid further setbacks.

He won two events in the United States to at least keep the ranking he had in 2010, making a nice progress in 2012 as well despite playing only 15 tournaments. The trouble was, 14 out those came on clay and he hasn't stepped a foot to the hard courts, unable to solve his knee issues and trying to rest them as much as possible by playing on the least demanding surface.

Jason played in the title match seven times that season, lifting two trophies in the United States and Australia and also scoring first Challenger wins in Todi which helped him to end the season in the Top 350. 2013 brought nothing new, Kubler was still attached to the clay courts, claiming three Futures titles and finishing the season inside the Top 400, but only just.

Things finally looked a little bit brighter in 2014, managing to play almost 30 events in his first pain-free season, entering the Top 200 for the first time and closing the year ranked 140th, which was a significant improvement compared to 2013.

His ambitions grew bigger and we saw him on the Challenger Tour, fighting against the better-ranked players instead of staying on the Futures where he already proved his quality. In May, Jason qualified for his second ATP tournament in Dusseldorf to claim his first ATP win, and the next big step in his tennis journey occurred in September when he conquered his first Challenger in Sibiu.

Playing with no problems from January until November, Kubler closed the season with another Challenger final in Lima and it looked like he was on the right path to finally fulfill his potential and attack the Top 100 in 2015.

Instead of that, the young Aussie suffered another blow, struggling to find his form and barely winning any matches before he was forced to undergo another knee surgery after the US Open, missing the rest of the year and dropping out from the Top 500.

After the recovery, the Queenslander tried to kick off 2016 season in the United States, competing on green Har-Tru clay in Florida, but nothing went like he was hoping for. He scored six wins in five tournaments and the pain was there to bother him once again, requiring another knee surgery in May, his sixth in total that sidelined him for a year and forced him to start all over again in March 2017 from the rock bottom.

It wasn't easy to regain the form he had in 2014 after so many bad moments in the last couple of seasons and Jason was aware that further problems of any kind could have sidelined him from the court for good, unwilling to go through all of that once again.

He stayed away from the competition until September when he entered his first Futures event on hard since 2011! He didn't need too much time to hit the right form, advancing to back-to-back finals in Toowoomba and Cairns before he took a week off for some well-deserved rest.

The crucial moment of the season and probably of his career in general came in Traralgon Challenger, his first tournament of that level since Poznan in July 2015 and the first on hard courts since 2010! Ranked 615th, Jason had to battle past three qualifying rounds just to reach the main draw and he did that without losing a set.

Carried by this momentum and eager to show his best tennis, Kubler marched on to reach the final, prevailing against Alex Bolt by 2-6 7-6 7-6 in two hours and 28 minutes after saving a match point in the second set tie break to grab his first Challenger crown in more than three years.

He finished the season a week later in Canberra and he was ready for more of the same in 2018, playing with no knee problems and finally being able to set his calendar in the best possible way, regardless to surface. He won Playford Challenger as a qualifier in the opening week and had a chance to play at the Australian Open for the first time in eight years, losing to Pablo Carreno Busta but delivering good tennis in Challengers to enter the Top 200 again in March for the first time since August 2015! Jason qualified for Wimbledon and he won Winnipeg Challenger in the following week, looking better and better on the court and having the Top 100 clearly in his sight.

He won his first ATP match since Dusseldorf 2014 in Washington, followed by Vancouver Challenger final where he had a match point to finally crack the Top 100 for the first time in his career! A well-deserved wild card allowed Jason Kubler to enter the US Open main draw directly and he used it with both hands, toppling Roberto Bautista Agut 6-3 6-3 6-4 in two hours and seven minutes for his first Grand Slam win.

The Aussie was more effective on his first serve and he gave his serve away only twice from four chances the Spaniard created. This was the first tournament for Roberto since Gstaad and he was far from his best, dropping 44% of the points in his games and suffering six breaks from 14 opportunities he had to play against, unable to prolong the match or win at least a set.

Jason kicked off the match in a great style, sailing through his service games and breaking Bautista Agut after a poor forehand from the Spaniard in game two. Serving for the opener, Kubler held at 30 in game nine to move 6-3 ahead, hoping for more of the same in the rest of the match.

They traded breaks in games two and three in the second set and Kubler saved a break point with a service winner in game four to level the score at 2-2. From 3-2 down, the Aussie won four straight games to clinch another set 6-3, breaking in games seven and nine and moving closer to the finish line.

Roberto never found his rhythm and he fell 3-1 down in the third set after a backhand down the line winner from Jason. Serving for the match, Kubler got broken in game nine but he crossed the finish line with a backhand down the line winner in game 10 that gave him another break and a place in round two.

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