Turkish fans literally light up the Australian Open
Turkey’s Marsel İlhan was defeated 3-6, 4-6, 5-7 by Chilean Fernando Gonzalez, the 2007 Australian Open finalist, in the second round of the 2010 Australian Open in Melbourne on Wednesday. İlhan has been eliminated, but he has done Turkey proud by putting the nation on the world tennis map.
Ranked No. 1 in Turkey and No. 151 in the world prior to the ongoing Australian Open tournament, İlhan was the first-ever Turkish player to reach the second round in a Grand Slam tournament and repeated the same feat in Melbourne on Wednesday. He is also the first Turk to win a Challenger Tournament.
The 22-year-old İlhan, who was born in Uzbekistan, emigrated to Turkey with his mother in 2004 and started playing for the Taçspor Tennis Club of İstanbul and was initially sponsored by Kia Motors Turkey.
In 2007, after several years of intensive training with his coach Can Üner, he made an unprecedented leap within a year from No. 1,320 in the world rankings to No. 320. In July 2008 İlhan won his first Challenger title at the Ramat Hasharon Israel Open by defeating Ivo Klec from Slovakia 6-4, 6-4 in the final.
İlhan advanced to the second round of the 2009 US Open, where he was beaten by Belgian Christophe Rochus 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 in a five-set thriller. Despite the defeat, İlhan made Turkish tennis history as the first-ever Turk to go that far in a Grand Slam tournament.
Ilhan was not alone though; Turkish fans watched the high tension game in the same fashion they watch their soccer games. Thirty-five Turkish fans were removed from the match after lighting flares inside show court three, in scenes more reminiscent of a European football encounter than a tennis grand slam.