Melbourne | Day 1 of AO Qualifying washed out…

The Australian Open kicked off with qualifying on Monday, except that it rained all day and not a ball was struck.

The satisfaction of achieving it all absolutely on your own, despite all this stuff … it is worth it. I will see you guys at AO (qualifiers) in a couple of days and I am pumped for this. Arina Rodionova

There are, of course, 3 show courts with retractable roofs at Melbourne Park to deal with the vagaries of Victoria weather but, as yet ,these are not being made available to qualifiers because they are being used by main draw players for practice.

AO organisers, though, are confident qualifying matches can still be completed on schedule despite the heavy rain in Melbourne as the roofed courts could be turned to if necessary.

Play is expected to resume on Tuesday morning, with all qualifying matches to be completed by Thursday night.

If rain does continue to disrupt the week, then qualifying matches could be pushed back all the way until Saturday, with the tournament beginning on Sunday.

In 2020 AO qualifiers were hit hard by wet weather and smoke from bushfires, but the schedule was still completed 3 days ahead of the start of season’s first Grand Slam tournament.

Arina Rodionova, the Aussie No 1, missed out on a wild-card into the main draw and must play her way through qualifying

© Chris Hyde/Getty Images

Qualifying entrants are competing for 16 spots in each of the men’s and women’s singles draws, with 3 wins needed to advance.

The look of the women’s qualifying draw has changed following the recent announcement of main-draw and qualifying wild-cards, plus some player withdrawals have contributed to the reshaped lists.

US Open champion Emma Raducanu has been elevated into the main draw, as have 2012 Roland Garros finalist Sara Errani, AO 2022 quarter-finalist Alize Cornet, and rising Chinese star Shang Juncheng, just 18 years of age.

So, too, has popular Aussie Daria Saville, a former World No 20, but controversy surrounds Arina Rodionova,  the Australian No 1, who missed out on a wild-card into the main draw despite a stellar 2023 in which she won 7 singles titles on the second-tier ITF circuit to move from outside the top 300 to a career-best 105.

Last week, the 34-year-old upset 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in the 2nd-round of the Brisbane International to move to the brink of a maiden top-100 berth.

The Russian-born Victorian will become the oldest player in WTA tour history to reach the milestone for the first time in her career if her form continues.

“I wish I could say I am surprised … but honestly,” Rodionova wrote on X after learning she had not been awarded a wild-card. “The satisfaction of achieving it all absolutely on your own, despite all this stuff … it is worth it.

“I will see you guys at AO (qualifiers) in a couple of days and I am pumped for this.”

Rodionova was meant to play Frenchwoman Leolia Jeanjean on Monday, but faced the delayed start.

There are 5 Australian women already in the main draw, with Ajla Tomljanovic granted entry on a protected ranking after her knee injury and Saville, Kimberly Birrell, Olivia Gadecki and Taylah Preston all issued wild-cards.

Emma Raducanu made her return to the WTA Tour in Auckland and impressed with her performance against Elina Svitolina, to whom she lost in 3 sets

© Dave Rowland/Getty Images

British hopes lie with Raducanu, who is set to make her Grand Slam come-back in Melbourne following her 8-month absence for surgery, and, thanks to her protected ranking, she has made her way into the main draw.

Joining Raducanu there are British No 1 Katie Boulter, who had the best season of her career last year, winning her first WTA title and breaking into the top 50, and Jodie Burrage, a direct AO entry for the first time in her career, having finished 2023 ranked inside the top 100.

There is a strong British challenge in qualifying this year from Harriet Dart, seeded 12, Heather Watson, the 27th seed, Fran Jones and Lily Miyazaki, all of whom fancy their chances of making the main draw at Melbourne Park.

The official date of the Australian Open 2024 draw has yet to be confirmed yet, but is expected to be on Thursday, 11 January.

The top 8 seeds in the main draw are World No 1 Iga Swiatek from Poland, defending champion Aryna Sabalenka from Belarus, last week’s Brisbane winner Elena Rybakina from Kazakstan, US Open champion Coco Gauff, the 19-year old American, World No 6 Jessica Pegula from the USA, 3-time Grand Slam finalist Ons Jabeur from Tunisia, and reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova from the Czech Republic.

After an action packed week at the United Cup, Brisbane and Auckland, only Rybakina, Pegula and Vondrousova have opted to play at the warm-up WTA 500 tournament in Adelaide this week.

Naomi Osaka is amongst the players enjoying indoor practice at Melbourne Park this week

© Graham Denholm/Getty Images



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