Top seed Sofia Kenin’s unhappy run Down Under took a further hit when she was defeated in her opening round at the Phillip Island Trophy on Sunday by Australian wild card Olivia Gadecki, an unranked teenager, 2-6 7-6(4) 6-4 in 2 hours and 28 minutes.
As soon as that match was finished, I was so happy that I even started crying. I’ve never felt this way before. I’ve been very fortunate enough to have Ash [Barty] training in Brisbane and she gave me the opportunity to do her preseason, and also my preseason, with her. I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did today without all her help, her time and effort. I’m really, really thankful for all she’s done for me. Olivia Gadecki
The Phillip Island Trophy is a WTA250 tournament being held in Melbourne for players who have lost in the first week of the Australian Open and features, in addition to Kenin and others, Bianca Andreescu, Jo Konta and Petra Martic as the high seeds, all of whom received first round byes.
Play began on Saturday with 2 Britons in action with polar opposite results as Katie Boulter fell to Russia’s Daria Kasatkina, 6-4 6-2, while Fran Jones, who came through qualifying, upset the No11 seed from China, Zhang Saisai, 6-2 3-6 6-2, to play another day.
On Monday, Jones will face Patricia Maria Tig from Romania next, while Konta, seeded 3, opens her campaign against Aliaksandra Sasnovic from Belarus, who beat American Lauren Davis 6-3 6-2 on Saturday.
Until now, Gadecki had never faced an opponent ranked inside the Top 200 but the unranked 18-year-old pulled off a historic upset, shocking the 2020 Australian Open champion Kenin, who lost her crown when she evicted in the second round at Melbourne Park by Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi last week.
Opting to get straight back in the saddle rather than retreat to lick her wounds, the American took a last-minute wildcard into the WTA250 event, which is also taking place on the Melbourne Park grounds, but it was a decision that backfired in the face of her unheralded opponent’s power and self-belief.
Gadecki received a wildcard into the AO qualifying in Dubai last month, where she won a round over Belgium’s Lara Salden before falling to Whitney Osuigwe, while on her WTA main draw debut at the Gippsland Trophy last week she stretched Bernarda Pera a 3-set loss and her 6-4 6-4 win over fellow wildcard Destanee Aiava in the first round here could not foreseen the scale of her performance against Kenin.
No unranked teenager had defeated a Top 10 player since a 15-year-old Mirjana Lucic-Baroni stunned Amanda Coetzer 6-4, 6-3 in the 1997 Bol semi-finals.
Belying her inexperience, Gadecki smacked 44 winners to 33 unforced aces, and sent down 12 aces in total and, most impressively, she kept a cool head in the most testing scoreboard moments.
Kenin, gritty as ever, saved 5 set points before forcing a 2nd-set tiebreak, only for Gadecki to pull ahead therein and take her 6th.
Serving at 2-3 in the decider, Gadecki escaped 5 break points against her and, at 4-4, consecutive winners garnered her the crucial break of the set.
The young Aussie came up with a breathtaking running forehand to save break point when serving for the match, before closing out the win with an ace and one-two punch.
“All I know is that I’m not ranked, and I just beat the No 4 in the world – which is crazy,” a beaming Gadecki said after the match.
The teenager showed nerves of steel against the two-time major finalist, saving 14 of the 17 break points she faced.
“After that first set I was still trying to find my feet, find my way in the match,” Gadecki added. “But then, I don’t know, something kind of clicked at 3-2, was like, you know what, I have nothing to lose here, I’m just going to go out here and have a good swing.”
Her stunning victory now also counts as her first top-50, top-10 and top-five win.
“As soon as that match was finished, I was so happy that I even started crying,” Gadecki said. “I’ve never felt this way before.
“I’ve been very fortunate enough to have Ash [Barty] training in Brisbane and she gave me the opportunity to do her preseason, and also my preseason, with her,” Gadecki explained.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did today without all her help, her time and effort. I’m really, really thankful for all she’s done for me.”
Two players fresh off the AO 3rd round failed to keep their momentum going, with Italy’s Sara Errani falling 6-2 6-3 to Zhu Lin and Russia’s Anastasia Potapova getting edged 6-4 4-6 6-3 by No 16 seed Rebecca Peterson.
The Swede now faces Belgium’s Greet Minnen for the right to play Gadecki in the 3rd round.
Ajla Tomljanovic successfully bounced back from her own AO loss after the Australian squandered a 5-2 final-set lead against Simona Halep, and said afterwards: “If I don’t wake up tomorrow and force myself to keep going and just put it behind me, it could sting for a while.”
The World No 72 has done just that, getting back into the swing of winning ways with a 6-3 6-4 win over compatriot, qualifier Lizette Cabrera.