• Australian Open qualifying

Baker & Ward within one win of Melbourne

ESPN staff
January 11, 2013
Jamie Baker is still on course © PA Photos

British duo James Ward and Jamie Baker are both within one win of qualifying for the main draw of the Australian Open, following nail-biting successes on Friday.

Baker, looking to qualify for the grand slam in Melbourne for the second time in his career, now knows only American Donald Young stands between him and achieving that aim, after he beat Matteo Viola 3-6 6-2 6-4.

The Italian, seeded 19th for qualifying, started the brighter of the two players - but Baker turned the tide in the contest in the second set, with a second break following a double fault from the Italian seeming to be the decisive moment in the contest.

The third set was a fraught affair - especially after Viola fought back from 4-1 down to level matters at 4-4 - but Baker held his next service game and then preyed on his opponent's understandable nerves, breaking for a final time to seal victory.

Young could prove a daunting final obstacle for Baker, however, after the talented-but-volatile youngster defeated former top 10 player James Blake to keep himself on track.

Baker was joined in the final qualification round by compatriot Ward, who faces the challenge of German Julian Reister if he wants to be in the main draw in Melbourne.

Ward booked his place with a hard-fought victory over Mischa Zverev, taking advantage of a debilitating back injury to the German to close out an eventual 6-7(1) 6-4 6-4 victory.

Ward qualified for the main draw of the year's first grand slam in 2012, only to lose in the opening round to Blaz Kavcic.

In women's qualifying, meanwhile, there was disappointment for Britain's Johanna Konta - who lost a three-set battle with Zhou Yi-Miao in the second round.

Konta, the world No. 153, fought back gallantly after dropping the opening stanza, but was unable to hold her nerve when it counted most as she eventually succumbed to a 7-5 2-6 8-6 demise.

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