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An outsider at a grand slam: the world No198 on his time at the Australian Open

James McGee lost his third and final qualifier for the Australian Open and missed out on the £26,500 he would have earned for reaching the first round of the grand slam. As other players go on to glory, he counts the cost of his career

By Jonathan Drennan for Behind the Lines, part of the Guardian Sport Network

James McGee wakes up in another anonymous, rented room. This time it’s in South Yarra, Melbourne. He is a tennis player ranked 198th in the world, the most successful Irish player by a distance. He rubs the sleep from his eyes and stretches out a sore body. Twenty-four hours before he came within one game of qualifying for the main draw of the Australian Open. He tries not to think about the £26,500 he would have won for qualifying, or the precious ranking points he would have gained. Instead, he focusses on his love of the game. It remains constant, in the face of the stark difficulties of surviving on the tour.

“I have had some very bad times, there are times when you lose a game and you are wondering where the next money to keep going is coming from. If you let it, it can really hit you hard. I remember being injured, having no coach and wondering how I can keep going, but you have to remember how much you love the game and that keeps you going and moving forward.”

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