Bolt draws a blank as Open feel-good story ends
It would, by some distance, have been the upset of the tournament had Alex Bolt won.
Sadly, 48 hours after an epic victory that saw him save four match points, the South Australian was unable to repeat the heroics against fourth seed Alexander Zverev, this time on an occasionally subdued, if loyal, Rod Laver Arena.
It is easy to confuse excitement with expectation and some perspective is called for. A couple of years ago Bolt gave up tennis to mix casual labouring with playing footy for Mypolonga Tigers in the River Murray Football League.
He is still only the 10th-ranked Australian player and eeks out a living on the ghostly Challenger tour and in trying to qualify for top level tournaments, usually unsuccessfully.
Go easy on the lad, really he has had a wonderful week. Here, he showed a first-rate array of groundstrokes but failed to impose himself or show the aggression that took him past the seeded Gilles Simon in round two.
Zverev was quick to compliment Bolt post match.
"He has unbelievable power, I was surprised how much power he had especially in the cool conditions," he said. "If he stays playing the way he is playing he is going to be top 100, the top 50 maybe."
Bolt fell behind from the off and could never quite catch up. A 26-shot rally clinched with a thumping crosscourt backhand winner at 4/4 in the last set invigorated a crowd desperate for him to let himself go, he just needed a few more.
His ranking will rise, from 155, to about 128 post Open and is well deserved.
Zverev meanwhile, just did what it took to get through, few mistakes or brilliance but solid always.
Winner of the ATP end of year world finals, he is yet to go beyond the last eight in a slam and looks, still, a touch short of seriously challenging the big three.
The 198cm tall German has been with fitness trainer Jez Green the man behind Andy Murray's imposing physique but said after the match, that muscle building had just not happened with him.
"I am just a skinny dude," he laughed. "I have been called asparagus a few times."
BOLT SEES BRIGHT FUTURE FOR AUSSIE TENNIS
Australian tennis is on the up said Alex Bolt after his Australian Open singles run came to an end against fourth Seed Alexander Zverev on Rod Laver Arena last night.
"We have a couple young really good players in (Alex) de Minaur and (Alexei) Popyrin coming through now. Demon is leading the chase for us Aussies. You have (John) Millman and (Matt) Ebden. All these quality guys in the top 100 now, it's pushing a lot of us other guys outside the top 100 to strive for more."
Bolt felt he vindicated the wildcard he had received from Tennis Australia despite a world ranking of just 155 before the tournament.
"I feel like it's reward for hard effort throughout the year. I felt like I've embraced it, I feel like I've justified my wild card making the third round here."
The $155,000 payday this week will help him plan his year enormously he said.
"It's going to help me throughout the year definitely. I'm not going to have to worry about week-to-week whether or not I'm going to have enough money to cover myself. It's a big thing for me.
"I mainly play on the Challenger tours, not the tournaments I guess that have the prize money like the grand slams do. It is a little bit more, I guess, tight, like you're tight with your money a little bit more. Still, it's gives you more incentive to play these big tournaments."
He confirmed that the bleached hair look that - along with his tennis has helped him get noticed a lot this week, will soon have had its day.
"I'll probably get rid of it now that I've lost. "yeah, get rid of it."