Luczak's claycourt prowess, career and ranking on the rise

The Age

Tuesday August 18, 2009

Linda Pearce

PETER Luczak's stunning renaissance has continued on the eve of his 30th birthday, with a second Challenger title in four weeks restoring the Victorian baseliner's ranking to within 10 places of its career peak of 69th.Luczak upset three of the top four seeds, including Belgium's Rochus brothers, to win a $US150,000 ($A180,000) claycourt tournament last week in Cordenons, Italy. A fortnight earlier he had trumped a weaker field at a lesser event on his pet surface in Poland, straight after qualifying for his only ATP World Tour event of the year and reaching the second round in Bastad, Sweden.And yet it was only last January, when he was passed over in Tennis Australia's annual summer wildcard allocation then failed to qualify for any of the three ATP events on the local circuit and was ultimately dropped from the Davis Cup team, that Luczak's prospects looked bleak.He remained well outside the top 200 as recently as May, before a narrow loss to German Alexander Flock in the second round of French Open qualifying launched a claycourt run that has delivered Challenger or second tier titles in three countries plus a final and a semi, for a healthy 32-8 win-loss aggregate since June.His latest 19-rung surge up the ATP rankings ladder entrenches Luczak as the second-ranked Australian man behind world No. 42 Lleyton Hewitt and ahead of Chris Guccione (124th), Carsten Ball (156th) and little-known Victorian Marinko Matosevic (174th).But Luczak's improvement has come too late to earn him direct entry into the main draw at the US Open, starting on Monday week the day after his 30th birthday and he will almost certainly be forced into qualifying for a fourth consecutive grand slam tournament.The wildcard available under Tennis Australia's reciprocal agreement with the USTA is expected to go to a younger candidate, either Guccione or Queensland teenager Bernard Tomic with young Victorian Olivia Rogowska likely to receive her third main draw wildcard of the year in the women's event. Rogowska, who won a round at the French Open, was also invited into qualifying at Wimbledon.- West Australian Brydan Klein, who has been suspended since July 20 for racially abusing South African Raven Klaasen at Eastbourne in June, is finishing a racial sensitivity training course agreed to as part of his ATP-imposed sanctions.Successful completion of the course means the final two months of Klein's six-month ban for racial vilification will be waived. Stripped of his AIS scholarship, the 2007 Australian Open junior champion is currently ranked 223rd.

© 2009 The Age

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