The 22-year-old Aussie Akira Santillan is yet to experience the magic of the biggest tennis stages and book the place in the main draw at Majors. Ranked in the top-150 more than a year and a half ago, the Tokyo native will have to wait at least until the US Open to achieve that, losing in the second qualifying round at Wimbledon for the ninth consecutive failure at one of the four most significant tournaments in the calendar.
Staged at Roehampton, the qualifying round for Wimbledon always delivers some incredible and tight matches, with Santillan playing one of those against Ruben Bemelmans on Wednesday. After two hours and 57 minutes, the more experienced Belgian celebrated a 6-7, 6-3, 12-10 victory, saving two match points in the 16th game of the decider, moving a win away from the sixth main draw appearance at Wimbledon as a qualifier and the fourth in a row!
Bemelmans had the numbers on his side but Santillan gave his best to stay in touch and fight until the very last point, scoring two breaks from 12 opportunities and giving serve away four times from 15 chances offered to Ruben.
The opening set lasted for almost an hour, with Bemelmans wasting a 5-3 advantage, getting broken while serving for the set at 5-4 and handing Akira the last three points in the tie break, with the young Aussie claiming it 7-5.
Ruben saved four break points in the third game of the second set to avoid even more significant deficit and broke in the next game to forge the lead, creating a set point on the return in game eight. Akira fended it off to prolong the action, earning chances of his own at 3-5 before Bemelmans saved them and arranged the deciding set.
There, they traded breaks in games four and five to stay locked up, with Santillan repelling the danger on serve in games 13 and 15, battling for those two match points at 8-7. Staying composed, Bemelmans fought them off and grabbed the pivotal break at 10-10, sealing the deal with a hold at love in game 22 to avoid the potential deciding tie break at 12-12.
Frustrated over the chances he missed, the young Aussie was furious at himself once the match was over, shouting he should retire and breaking every single racquet he had in the bag on the field near the court. Akira left the site without picking those racquets and they should serve as a nice souvenir for the fans who stood and watched his performance.