JAMES Duckworth might have lost in the first round of the Australian Open, but he showed enough to suggest he could break into the top 100 players in the world in 2012.
The 20-year-old - the world No.205 - will be one of a group of young Australian players using next week's $50,000 challenger tournament in Caloundra as a springboard to the European season.
Ranked 700 in the world this time last year, Duckworth took it to world No.9 Janko Tipsarevic in Melbourne, going down 6-3, 2-6, 7-6, 6-4.
"It was really good fun. The crowd was great - playing in a grand slam in front of my family and friends was fantastic," Duckworth said.
"I double-faulted at five-all in the tie breaker, which wasn't ideal, but it was still a good experience ... definitely gives me confidence that I can keep improving."
After Caloundra, Duckworth will head back to the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra for a solid block of training, including plenty of time in the gym, before heading to Europe for five months to play in challenger events, and hopefully qualify for the French Open and Wimbledon.
Neither surface holds any fears for the New South Welshman - a semi-finalist at the 2010 French Open for juniors.
After watching Novak Djokavic and Rafael Nadal punish themselves for almost six hours in the Australian Open final, Duckworth said he could see where he needed to improve.
"It was mind-blowing watching the way they can push their bodies," he said.
"I'd definitely love to get to that level, but I know I need to get a bit stronger and get a bit more speed."
A host of Aussies will play in Caloundra, including Australian Open junior winner Luke Saville, Isaac Frost and John Millman, who yesterday were all given wildcards by Tennis Australia.
One more wildcard is yet to be given out and four places will be up for grabs in qualifying, which will be played on Saturday and Sunday.
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