While neither his parents nor his siblings Nick and Kate play tennis, James Duckworth does have someone to look up to in his own family for inspiration.
His grandmother - Beryl Penrose - won the women’s singles and doubles title at the 1955 Australian Championships. “That’s a very high standard. I would love to get there. She was a great player,” said the second seed after a hard fought 6-2, 7-6(3) win in round of 16 against Serbia’s Hamad Medjedovic in the Chennai Open Challenger at the SDAT Stadium on Thursday.
If not close to winning a Slam, James ‘Duckman’ Duckworth was having his best year on tour in 2021 since turning pro 11 years ago - a personal-best 22 tour-level wins, including a maiden ATP final appearance in Astana and a third-round finish at Wimbledon. On January 31, 2022, he reached a career-high ranking of 46. However, the right-handed Australian was in no condition to celebrate as 10 days prior to that, he had undergone a hip surgery on his 30th birthday.
Duckworth, the son of a surgeon from Sydney, went under the knife for the ninth time in his career.
“I’ve had three (surgeries) on my (right) foot, three on my (right) elbow, two on my (right) shoulder and one on my hip,” he said.
“It’s been an injury plagued career, but going through all those sorts of hard times makes me appreciate the good times more and teaches me lots of lessons in regards to resilience and hard work and really trying to do everything you can to look after your body. It’s just that the cards have been dealt and I’m just doing the best I can,” he added.
Duckworth, who now lives in Brisbane, played his first event post the hip operation in Lyon in May and from there on, his tour-level win-loss record for the rest of the year was 7-12. He also took part in 10 Challenger Tour events, making the final in Cassis, France. However, come January 2023, he was World No. 155, a slip of more than 100 spots from his career-high.
“It was very difficult. When I was playing my best tennis and at my highest ranking, I had to get a hip operation. It’s just the nature of the sport. These things happen. You’ve just got to go through these processes and I’m just fighting as hard as I can each day to try and get my ranking back up,” said Duckworth.
The Chennai Challenger is Duckworth’s fifth event this season and he is gradually getting back to top 100. He finished as runner-up in a Challenger event back home in Burnie although it was the last tournament he played under his former coach Wayne Arthurs.
“He’s now back working for Tennis Australia and this is my first week with Matt Reid. He used to play, we were good friends on the tour and we just started this week,” said the current World No.138.
Duckworth continues his campaign in Chennai on Friday when he faces compatriot Max Purcell, the reigning Wimbledon men’s doubles champion, in the quarterfinals.
The cricket connection
As many Aussies do, Duckworth also tried his hand at cricket and has been following the ongoing Border-Gavaskar Trophy closely.
“I’ve played a little bit of cricket up until about the age of 12-13 years. I really enjoyed it. It’s a good sport. Hopefully, we can beat you guys in the next Test. It (the defeat in Nagpur) was very tough. We struggled with the spinners. You guys are pretty good,” he said.
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