James Duckworth in action at 2021 Wimbledon.

In a Wimbledon field where the narrative is reasonably focused on superhuman achievements from the world's greatest players, it’s easy to overlook the significance of a world No. 91's opportunity to simply reach the second week. Enter James Duckworth, whose journey to the third round is more than six sets of tennis won—it’s the culmination of a completely different herculean tale for the player we call Duckman.

Making his main-draw Grand Slam debut at the 2012 Australian Open, a 19-year-old Duckworth advanced to the second round of his home major. He’d lose to ninth seed Janko Tipsarevic over four competitive sets, showing plenty of promise that a deeper run would soon follow. Over the next nine seasons however, a slew of injuries, confidence issues and a set of brutal draws all played their part in the Sydney native’s inability to improve upon that showing on the Grand Slam stage.

Until Thursday.

When you're young, you just sort of expect it's just going to keep happening, but when you go through a couple of years sitting on the sidelines, you realize how special it is to be playing events like these. James Duckworth

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Taking on Sam Querrey, Duckworth was the clear underdog. Querrey had reached the quarterfinals in three of his past four visits at the All England Club, which included ousting world No. 1s Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in consecutive years. Querrey had also defeated Duckworth in two close sets three weeks earlier on grass at the MercedesCup in Stuttgart.

But on this day, Duckworth channeled years of patience and perseverance in outshining the American, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-2, to soak up a milestone that had long eluded him.

“I don't think there's anything I can tell my younger self that would stop me from getting injured, but probably just, enjoy trying, enjoy the moments at the Slams a little bit more,” Duckworth tells TENNIS.com. “When you're young, you just sort of expect it's just going to keep happening, but when you go through a couple of years sitting on the sidelines, you realize how special it is to be playing events like these.”

FLASHBACK: Duckworth's lob winner on match point at the Miami Open

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If the ATP had an equivalent of baseball’s disabled list, Duckworth's time spent there would be surpassed only by Juan Martin del Potro. Duckworth previously had a pair of procedures done on his right elbow in 2012 and 2014, but nothing could prepare him for the series of roadblocks that began a few years down the road. In 2017, Duckworth contested a single match, losing in the first round of the Australian Open. That season was marred by setbacks when he underwent three separate surgeries, two on his right foot and one on his right shoulder. After attempting to qualify at two Australian summer events in January 2018, Duckworth went under the knife two more times to remove bone spurs in familiar places: his right foot and right elbow.

Given the toll taken by that point, Duckworth had to weigh all of the scenarios in front of him.

“With my foot, I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to come back from that. My dad's a surgeon, and before I had my last foot operation, he wasn't sure if it would work and that I’d be able to do get back to full fitness,” says Duckworth. “That was a long process, just retraining myself, how to jump, how to run, how to hop. So there was a fair few hurdles that I had to overcome. A lot of time was spent rehabbing and watching tennis, when I would have loved to have been out there.”

Using a protected ranking after dropping to No. 1,072, Duckworth entered the French Open later that year. He lost to Marin Cilic, who was ranked No. 4 and the runner-up at two of the past three Slams. Drawing formidable foes in the opening round of majors wasn’t new for Duckworth given his past experiences against Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt in Melbourne, but the Cilic meeting ignited a stretch of unkind draws for a competitor eager to gain ranking points and a swing of momentum. Third-ranked Alexander Zverev, a returning Murray and second-ranked Rafael Nadal all landed next to Duckworth’s name at the following three majors.

“You're going to get good draws, you're going to get bad draws, it's just way of the sport,” accepts Duckworth. “It's great to play those guys to test yourself, to see where you're at, to play on big courts, to play at prime time on TV. That’s where you want to be. It’s obviously nicer when you don't have to play them in the first round, just in regards to rankings and progressing in the tournament.”

The 6' 0'' Duckworth achieved a career-high ranking of No. 71 in February 2020, but will surpass that with a third-round win Saturday at Wimbledon.

The 6' 0'' Duckworth achieved a career-high ranking of No. 71 in February 2020, but will surpass that with a third-round win Saturday at Wimbledon.

Following his loss to Nadal at the 2019 Australian Open, Duckworth stood at No. 237. With his protected ranking expired, his season was defined by two words: the grind. Zero ATP victories and four unsuccessful bids to qualify into a major were overshadowed by an exceptional workload. Duckworth advanced to six Challenger finals in six different countries, lifting four trophies and racking up 49 wins to end his season at No. 100.

In March 2020, Duckworth underwent surgery on his right shoulder again, though the procedure (the eighth operation of his career) didn’t keep him off the tour, as its timing aligned with the COVID-19 shutdown. After going winless in main draws for the remainder of the year upon returning in August, Duckworth has turned it up in 2021. In defeating Querrey, he improved to 9-7 in tour-level matches this season, and 4-3 on the major stage.

“It doesn't just happen overnight,” he asserts. “Moments like this make all those difficult times worth it [to] experience this.”

On Saturday, the 29-year-old aims to soar to even greater heights in his 25th major main draw when he faces No. 23 seed Lorenzo Sonego. If his migration to this point has left one impression, it’s that Duckman is capable of flying high without wings. Talk about superhuman.