Max Purcell and John-Patrick Smith to fight for the Australian Open WC


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Max Purcell and John-Patrick Smith to fight for the Australian Open WC

The Australian Open Play-off takes place at Melbourne Park every December, offering a chance for the lower-ranked Australian players to fight for the spot in the first Major of the season. Sixteen players were there at the beginning of the men's action, embracing grueling best-of-five encounters under the Melbourne sun and seeking the title and the Australian Open invitation.

In the final on Sunday, John Patrick-Smith and Max Purcell will fight for the honor after both scored straight-sets victories in Friday's semi-finals. John-Patrick Smith is through to his third Australian Open Play-off in the last six years, defeating Maverick Banes 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 in an hour and 40 minutes.

Smith had the upper hand from start to finish, controlling the pace on both serve and return to seal the deal in less than two hours, hoping for more of the same in the final clash. A left-hander broke Banes in the very first game of the encounter to set the tone, delivering another break of serve at 3-1 thanks to a backhand down the line winner.

Serving for the set at 5-2, John-Patrick landed a forehand down the line winner for the best possible closure of the opener, earning two more breaks at the beginning of the second set to open a 6-2, 4-0 advantage with a service winner in the fourth game.

Smith broke Banes at 15 in the seventh game with a return winner to seal the set in style, making another big step towards the finish line. Maverick gave his best to stay in touch in the third set, suffering a break in the fourth game on the sixth chance offered to Smith who sealed the deal with a volley winner at the net in the ninth game.

In the second match, Max Purcell toppled the top seed Alex Bolt 7-6, 6-2, 6-3 in just over two hours, moving a win away from his first main draw Grand Slam. The youngster stayed in touch with the better-ranked opponent in the first set and broke at 5-5 with a forehand winner to serve for the set in the next game.

Bolt broke back in the very last moment to set up a tie break that Purcell claimed 7-3, gathering massive momentum ahead of the remaining sets. Two breaks of serve were enough for the youngster to take the second set 6-2, controlling the scoreboard in the third as well and moving over the top with an ace at 5-3 to earn the spot in the final.