FORMER Albury tennis star Sam Groth has achieved a lifelong ambition by cracking the main draw at Wimbledon.
Groth, who has soared to a career-high ranking of 125, defeated Frenchman Simone Bolelli 6-2 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 in the final round of qualifying yesterday to take to 11 the number of Australians lining up at the All England Club next week.
He will play the 21st seeded Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov in the opening round.
“This is a tournament I’ve wanted to play ever since I was a young kid,” he said. “It’s an unbelievable feeling to qualify.”
Groth, 26, narrowly missed a wildcard last week when he lost to fellow Australian Nick Kyrgios in the final of the Challenger event in Nottingham.
The right-hander thumped 25 aces past Bolelli and his confidence is sky-high after making the semi-finals of the French Open men’s doubles this month.
Groth said moving from the clay at Roland Garros to the slick grasscourts of England had only further enhanced his game.
“Obviously my serve is a lot more dangerous here,” he said.
“Today was the first time I’ve been broken in 18 sets on grass and that was just a pretty bad game, a lapse of concentration.
“If I keep doing all the right things I’ve been doing leading up, and coming onto a surface that really suits my game style, I feel like I can be dangerous.”
Groth learnt to play tennis on the Corowa grasscourts as a 10-year-old before being coached in Albury and moving to Melbourne in 2005.
Luke Saville and James Duckworth also qualified to join Lleyton Hewitt, Bernard Tomic, Marinko Matosevic, Matt Ebden and Kyrgios in the field.
Saville, 20, scored a gutsy 2-6 6-3 5-7 7-6 8-6 win over Yann Marti and Duckworth downed Martin Fischer 6-4 7-6 6-4, but Alex Bolt missed out on a debut when he fell 3-6 7-6 6-4 6-4 to Konstantin Kravchuk.
Top Aussie Hewitt will play Poland’s Michal Przysiezny in the opening round and could meet Roger Federer if he makes the fourth round, while Tomic drew Russian Evgeny Donskoy and could play No.6 seed Tomas Berdych in round two.
Saville will face Austrian Dominic Thiem, Duckworth, Matosevic and Ebden have tough asks against French No. 13 seed Richard Gasquet, Spanish No. 18 Fernando Verdasco and Canadian No. 8 Milos Raonic respectively, while Kyrgios drew Frenchman Stephane Robert.
Samantha Stosur, Casey Dellacqua and Jarmila Gajdosova will line up in the women and will play Belgian Yanina Wickmayer, Estonian qualifier Anett Kontaveit and Swiss Stefanie Voegele respectively.