Australian Open debutant Mensik hungry for more
#NextGenATP Czech Jakub Mensik ticked off another milestone in his blooming career on Friday when he qualified for the Australian Open for the first time.
The 18-year-old, who defeated Harold Mayot in his final match, also came through qualifying to reach the third round at the US Open in September. Hungry to repeat his New York success this week, Mensik is thrilled to be in Melbourne.
“I'm just really happy that I made it,” Mensik said. “It's always different at Grand Slams. When you are on the Challenger Tour the conditions are very different and when you come to Grand Slams it doesn't matter if it's US Open or Australian Open, you have that good feeling that you are on the top and you can play with these guys so that's a big motivation for me.
“The job is not done. I will do my best to continue on this Aussie journey, to play more great matches and to win more.”
Mensik will make his main draw debut Monday against former World No. 10 Denis Shapovalov. However, the 18-year-old is familiar with Melbourne Park, having advanced to the Australian Open boys’ singles final in 2022. Then aged 16, he suffered thigh muscle cramps in an epic final against American Bruno Kuzuhara.
While a tough experience at the time, the Czech believes it helped him during his qualifying run this year.
“Two years ago it was a special moment for me. It was an unbelievable experience even though I lost,” Mensik said. “I felt how it is to have a full-body cramp. We tried after that to do some things better, so it's not going to happen. I played three matches [in qualifying], two of them were tougher than the first one but I felt very good on the court, very comfortable. That's all that you need.”
Mensik was one of two 18-year-old #NextGenATP stars to qualify for the hard-court major, joining Croatian Dino Prizmic, who lost to Novak Djokovic in a high-quality four-set battle over four hours on Sunday night.
Mensik has his memories with the record 10-time champion Djokovic. The Serbian watched Mensik compete in the boys’ singles final in 2022 and shortly after invited the Czech to train with him.
“He sent a video of himself talking to me, and asking me if I wanted to come, that he saw the match and he saw what happened,” Mensik said at last year’s US Open. “And if I wanted to, he was looking for a sparring partner for one week in Belgrade to hit. So I was like, ‘Okay, why not?’ He is one of the best or the best in tennis. So I said, ‘Okay, let's do that.’
“I came there and we hit a few times. I wasn't just with him on the court, but also off the court and talking with him not just about tennis, but all the stuff off the court. So it was very fun and off the court he's the nicest guy I ever met. When you cross the street and look at him and talk to him, you're not sure if this guy is a tennis player. When he's talking to you, it's just a normal person.”
Mensik’s tennis journey began in Prostejov, Czech Republic, with childhood coach Ivo Muller, who sadly passed away in 2013. In August, the Czech became the youngest man since Borna Coric in 2014 to win a main draw match at the US Open, while he captured his first ATP Challenger Tour title last season in Prague.
The No. 142 player in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings is clearly on the right path and is one of the youngest players in contention to compete at the Next Gen ATP Finals in December in Jeddah.
“Last year before the 2023 season was over, I made goals for 2024,” Mensik said. “One of them is to qualify for the Next Gen Finals. For these players under 21 it's an amazing tournament with good experiences to play with the best young guys so for me it's one of the biggest goals this season.”
For now, Mensik will continue to focus on his Australian Open journey, with Canadian Shapovalov the next target.
Quotes courtesy of Tennis Australia