Aussies fall as AO Q2 is completed

Aussie hopes were dashed on Thursday as the final round of Australian Open qualifying hopefuls was determined, and five countrywomen were beaten, but fast-rising Mai Hontama and Zheng Qinwen will square off for a place in the AO main draw after quick qualifying wins while Martina Trevisan, Jule Niemeier and Arianne Hartono also advanced to the play-off round.

Arina Rodionova was among the Australian casualties to lose second-round matches at Melbourne Park on Thursday, despite a strong start against Mirjam Bjorklund, the rising 23-year-old World No 219 from Sweden, who prevailed in 3 sets.

Bjorklund fired 27 winners to the 30th-seeded Australian’s 13, helping her record a 4-6 6-4 6-2 win in just under 2 hours.

Lizette Cabrera fought gallantly in her showdown with former 94th ranked Richel Hogenkamp of the Netherlands, bravely saving 4 match points before succumbing, 6-4 7-5.

The 24-year-old from Queensland struck 27 winners in the one-hour 43-minute battle, but was ultimately undone by 46 unforced errors.

Melbourne local, Jaimee Fourlis, was outclassed by second-seeded Italian Martina Trevisan, a quarter-finalist at Roland Garros 2020, who scored comfortable 6-2 6-0 win, with strong returning making life difficult for the 22-year-old.

The Italian converted 6 of her 8 break points, while saving 6 of the 7 she faced, en route to the 1-hour 12-minute win.

Trevisan, who had to save match point against Irina Fetecau in the first round, will face No 19 seed Olga Govortsova next, after the Belarusian overcame Daniela Seguel, a 33-year-old mother-of-one, who reached her career high of No 35 in June 2008, 6-3 4-6 6-3.

Seone Mendez, a 22-year-old Aussie who claimed her first Grand Slam win this week, also exited against a seeded opponent, China’s Zheng Qinwen, the No 13 seed, who posted a 6-3 6-2 victory.

The big-hitting Chinese 19-year-old was in supreme form, winning in 66 minutes after striking 24 winners in total, including 10 aces.

Unfortunately, Zoe Hives’ fairytale return from illness ended on a disappointing note when, after winning her first competitive match in more than 2 years on Tuesday, an ankle complaint hampered the 25-year-old wild-card in a 7-5 7-5 loss to American Emina Bektas, .

The results leave 23-year old Kimberly Birrell as the last Australian in the women’s qualifying singles draw., and she will play Britain’s Harriet Dart in the final qualifying round on Friday.

Mai Hontama raced past Liang En-Shuo and will now play Zheng Qinwen for a place in the AO main draw

© William West/AFP via Getty Images

Meanwhile, a week after meeting in the first round of Melbourne Summer Set 1, Zheng and 28th seed Mai Hontama set a rematch in the final round after two of the quickest wins of Day 4.

Hontama, 22, needed just 62 minutes to race past 2019 junior champion Liang En-Shuo of Chinese Taipei, 6-0 6-4.

In the first set, Hontama, ranked 149, dropped just 3 points behind her delivery, while coming out on top of multi-deuce tussles in each of Liang’s service games while, in the second, she overturned a 3-1 deficit to reel off 5 of the last 6 games, sealing victory with her 3rd ace.

Zheng triumphed in 3 sets in the pair’s Melbourne clash, and went on to make her WTA semi-final debut in just her 4th main draw.

Germany’s Jule Niemeier, seeded 17, was another quick winner, dispatching Simona Waltert of Switzerland 6-1 6-1 in 1 hour and 24 minutes.

The talented 22-year-old faces an intriguing third-round match-up against the Netherlands’ Arianne Hartono, who upset Ysaline Bonaventure of Belgium, 6-2 4-6 6-4, in 1 hour 34 minutes.

25-year old Hartono ended Bendigo ITF W60 champion Bonaventure’s 6-match winning streak, coming up with 22 winners to 19 unforced errors.

Russia’s Elina Avanesyan joined Zheng as another 2002-born Grand Slam qualifying debutante in the final round.

The 19-year-old rocketed from 720 to 261 in the world over the course of 2021 after compiling a 48-19 record on the ITF World Tour, but had never contested a WTA-level qualifying event until this week.

The Russian scored a quality 6-2 7-5 win over No 23 seed Kateryna Baindl (née Kozlova) from the Ukraine, coming through in an hour 27 minutes to fave another Ukrainian, former Top 100 player in Lesia Tsurenko, the 6th seed, who defeated American Asia Muhammad, 6-3 7-5.

Elsewhere, there were wins for two Moldova-born Spaniards – former World No 88 Aliona Bolsova, who came through a gruelling encounter against American Usue Maitane Arconada, 6-4 4-6 6-4, in 2 hours and 17 minutes, and Cristina Bucsa, who defeated Slovak Rebecca Sramkova, 6-2 7-5, in 1 hour 34 minutes.

American Christina McHale, ranked 166, beat compatriot Francesca Di Lorenzo, 6-4 6-3, while another Slovak, World No 158 Viktoria Kuzmova, defeated Croatia’s Jana Fett by the same scoreline.



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