Tennis Prose



Who Is James Duckworth?

I have never considered to do a Biofile interview with James Duckworth or to even taken a photograph of him at any pro tournaments I’ve covered. I have never had a conversation with any fellow tennis observer about James Duckworth and I have never heard any friends or fans mention his name. Because he’s one of those players it seemed would never achieve anything of note in the ATP. Duckworth, it seemed, is one of those guys like Federico Delbonis, Daniel Gimeno Traver, Mikhail Kukushkin, Go Soeda, Uchiyama, Ito, Ramanathan, Krueger…players just out there grinding in anonymity and usually mostly empty outer courts.

But Duckworth has proved this year my tennis sense is way off – or an eye doctor appointment is needed.

Duckworth, who wears Australian attire and uses a Babolat racquet, may have been a journeyman player for the last decade but he has actually become a force to be reckoned with in the ATP this year. He is vaulting up the rankings and knocking off some formidable competitors.

Last year in Cologne, Germany, Duckworth won only three games vs Jannik Sinner but this year in Toronto, the Aussie handed the Italian a revenge 63 64 defeat.

Duckworth explained the factors which motivated him to beat Sinner: β€œThe TV commentators were getting ready for this really good Sinner-Medvedev match next round and I just wanted to prove a point,” Duckworth told β€œIt pissed me off listening to them say that.”

β€œI knew obviously I had to play well, but there were certain tactical things that I changed a little bit β€” my serving spots and a couple of things on return,” Duckworth said. β€œI watched a fair bit of his match against Chris O’Connell [in Atlanta] and took a few things from that and obviously had to execute today. I was able to do that in the key moments, which was a big help.”

In 2021, the 29 year old Duckworth has accomplished a 22-19 record (his career mark is 47-73 and he was 4-8 in 2020). He hasn’t won a title yet but he has career wins versus the likes of Sinner, Taylor Fritz, Sam Querrey, Adrian Mannarino, David Goffin (63 61 in Miami), and Ugo Humbert to name a few.

Currently ranked 55 and the survivor of eight surgeries (mainly elbow problems), Duckworth has had the best week of his career this week, beating Roberto Bautista Agut, Lorenzo Musetti, and Alex Popyrin before falling 75 in the third set in today’s QF to Hurkacz.

You may have been like me to mistakenly underrate James Duckworth but his terrific 2021 has proven beyond any shadow of doubt the right handed Aussie with the two hander backhand and coached by Mark Draper is now officially a player who can’t be ignored any longer.

Duckworth is surely capable of becoming one of those later-career crowd favorite underdogs like Victor Estrella Burgos, Tennys Sandgren, Paulo Lorenzi, Zhang Shuai, Wayne Arthurs, Jess Pegula, Rajeev Ram, Rebecca Marino…

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  • Scoop Malinowski · November 5, 2021 at 11:56 am

    Remember John McEnroe famously saying “Who the hell is Juan Balcells?” back in the 90s, a semi controversial disrespect of the journeyman Spaniard. I think it was when McEnroe was Davis Cup captain and they were playing Spain in Spain but can’t remember for sure, just remember McEnroe’s quote “Who the hell is Juan Balcells?!”

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 5, 2021 at 11:58 am

    Can easily hear John McEnroe saying “Who the hell is James Duckworth?”



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