Jason Kubler’s had a few labels attached to him down the years – tennis boy wonder, the right-handed Nadal, the luckless comeback kid.
But he didn’t fancy the moniker he got stuck with in January en route to ending up as a losing Australian Open finalist with playing partner Jaimee Fourlis.
“Yeah, I remember at the second week of the Aussie, I was getting introduced as the bloody mixed doubles guy!” he laughed.
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“And I was like, I don’t want that! Mixed doubles guy? I mean, I don’t even really play doubles that much.”
The good news at Roland Garros for the Queenslander on Sunday, though, was that ‘Mixed Doubles Guy’ was no more.
He’d disappeared, found a Parisian phone booth and morphed into ‘French Open Saviour Guy’.
For back in his singles element, Brisbane’s Kubler was Australia’s first winner at this year’s tournament, eking out his victory at 9.40pm under floodlights on his lucky Court 13 after his first four compatriots in action had all been beaten.
And his late-night heroics in his three-tiebreak straight-sets win over American Denis Kudla were just another remarkable chapter in the rollercoaster tennis life of the 29-year-old.
He’s seen the highs of being the best junior player in the world followed by the lows of being a forgotten, injury-beset professional who was down to his last 14 cents in his bank account.
His sporting career has been caught in an agonising carousel of surgeries and comebacks – “out for six months, play for six months”, as he puts it – always with the knowledge the next op on his knee might be his last as a professional athlete.
So no wonder he was smiling as he reflected positively on a new chapter of his life which he hopes will be titled: “No more comebacks.”
He’s fit again, has a new coach in Australia’s former Wimbledon men’s doubles champion Stephen Huss, and another 86,000 Euros in the bank for reaching the last 64 at a grand slam for just the second time in his career.
Maybe luck’s on his side too, because he reflected that he could easily have been knocked out in either of his first two qualifiers, particularly when he was match point down to Radu Albot in the second match.
Kubler could well face in-form British 10th seed Cameron Norrie in the next round and the adventure might well be over in Paris, but what he’s already achieved this past week and a half has, he reckons, instilled new confidence and belief in him.
“I’ve been working with Stephen for four or five weeks. I’m a lot less up and down when I’m playing now,” he said.
“I don’t want to say it’s already worked well now because we’ve only had such little time together, but I’m super excited about what the future holds.”
Including more mixed doubles perhaps?
“I would love to play mixed doubles!” laughed Mixed Doubles Guy.
“But, unfortunately, I’m very lowly ranked.”