Melbourne | Mixed results for Brits as Aussies advance in AO Qualifying

Qualifying for the Australian Open finally got off the mark on Tuesday after a full day of rain on Monday prevented any matches being played, and there were mixed results for British women players.

Coming from United Cup and having to reset... it was definitely a bit of a mental battle. I’m super happy with how I played. I told myself, ‘Just enjoy it... there’s no pressure on you here’. Storm Hunter

Harriet Dart and Francesca Jones both won their opening matches, but fellow Brits Lily Miyazaki and Heather Watson were eliminated in straight sets.

Dart, the 12th seed, saw off a late challenge by Italy’s Nuria Brancaccio, 6-2 7-6(4), building on her successful run in Canberra last week.

The 27-year-old kicked off the year by making the biggest final of her career at the Canberra WTA 125, just days after being ill during her flight Down Under.

“I was actually sick for about five days before coming here, so I haven’t had the best preparation,” Dart said when asked about her preparations going into Canberra. “We were actually in a hospital in Bangkok because of really bad food poisoning.

“So, we ended up leaving (the UK) on the Monday evening and arriving Thursday lunchtime! When I arrived, I barely got any practice.”

Despite this, and a tough 3-set battle in her opening round match against Anna-Lena Friedsam, the World No 114 went on to have a stellar week in the Australian sun, battling her way through to her first singles final at WTA-level, where she eventually finished runner-up to Spain’s Nuria Parrizas-Diaz, 6-4 6-3.

The next qualifying match for Dart is a meeting with Yulia Starodubtseva from Ukraine, who defeated Martina Capurro Taborda from Argentina, 6-3 6-0, at Melbourne Park.

Fran Jones also made it into round 2 with a 6-2 6-4 win over France’s Margaux Rouvroy, and will play Ella Seidel after the German got past Elizabeth Mandlik from the US, 6-3 2-6 6-4.

Teenager Melisa Ercan overcame a calf issue to beat British veteran Yuriko Miyazaki on Tuesday.

© Getty Images

Watson, the British No 4, though, fell at the first hurdle to Lulu Sun from Switzerland, 6-4 6-3, while Miyazaki, was beaten 6-4 7-6(5) in the 1st-round by Australian wild-card Melisa Ercan.

The 18-year-old World No 517 outlasted the British No 5, but ended the match in tears after a calf issue almost scuppered her efforts.

The Turkish-born talent clawed her way back from 2-4 down to win the first set, then looked on her way to an impressive victory, leading 4-1 in the second, but Ercan, who became an Australian citizen last year, started to struggle as her calf seized up.

Miyazaki, whose highest World ranking is No 154, took advantage to level before the set went to a tiebreak.

The big-serving Ercan jumped ahead and wrapped up the win on her 2nd match point, thanks to another error from her opponent.

The youngster immediately sought treatment from the tournament physiotherapist before being wheeled from the court.

Fitness permitting, Ercan will next face Wei Sijia of China in her quest to win 3 straight qualifying matches and make a Grand Slam debut.

Australian No 1 Arina Rodionova lost to Leolia Jeanjean on Tuesday and took a swipe at Tennis Australia for not awarding her a wild-card into the main draw of the Australian Open

© Kelly Defina/Getty Images

Six other Australians successfully progressed to the 2nd-round of qualifying, but the nation’s No 1 women’s player Arina Rodionova did not, and she wasn’t happy.

After exiting with a 6-3 6-4 loss to lower-ranked Frenchwoman Leolia Jeanjean, Rodionova took a parting swipe at Tennis Australia for not awarding her a wild-card.

“I don’t even know how to justify the reasoning behind it,” Rodionova said less than a week after beating 2020 AO champion Sofia Kenin at the Brisbane International. “I had a great year. I’ve done everything I possibly could to deserve it. They just don’t like me, simply.”

Although Rodionova is out, other Aussies edged to within 2 wins of a spot in the main draw on Tuesday.

Astra Sharma battled to a 6-7(3) 6-3 6-3 win over Portugal’s Francisca Jorge, Priscilla Hon downed exciting 15-year-old fellow Australian Emerson Jones, 6-2 7-5, and teenager Talia Gibson prevailed, 6-3 1-6 6-2, against Romanian Andreea Mitu.

Wild-card Ivana Popovic also progressed with a 6-3 6-2 win over over Croatia’s Tena Lukas, before Melbourne local Destanee Aiava rounded out the day with a 6-3 7-6(5) win over Frenchwoman Chloe Paquet.

Petra Hule, though, fell 6-4 6-4 to 10th-seeded Czech Brenda Fruhvirtova, and Jaimee Fourlis lost 6-4 6-3 to Mexican 2nd seed Renata Zarazua.

Storm Hunter, the World No 1 in doubles, is hoping to make it into the main draw so her parents can watch her playing singles next week

Four years after her first Australian Open singles victory in qualifying, Storm Hunter was back in the winner’s circle on Wednesday, this time taking out former World No 15 Kaia Kanepi from Estonia.

Hunter is the World No 1 in doubles and blissfully unaware of her recent AO fortunes, having last won in singles in the qualifying 1st-round back in 2020.

“Thankfully, I didn’t know that stat before coming out,” a smiling Hunter, 29, said after a convincing 6-3 6-2 win over the 2022 AO quarter-finalist. “The fans get a bit rowdy out here, which I love.”

It was a near-capacity crowd on Court 3 for Hunter, who successfully qualified for both Roland-Garros and Wimbledon in 2023.

Now World No 179 in singles, she cracked forehand return winners to claim each of her two sets, with former Grand Slam champion Sam Stosur cheering from court-side.

Having played 4 mixed doubles United Cup matches for Australia last week across Perth and Sydney, Hunter said the transition to the singles court was a challenging one.

“Coming from United Cup and having to reset… it was definitely a bit of a mental battle,” she said. “I’m super happy with how I played.”

It was a slow start, though, and she fell behind 0-3 as she attempted to adjust to the rocketing power of Kanepi.

“I told myself, ‘Just enjoy it… there’s no pressure on you here’,” Hunter said later.

She found firm ground and went onto the front foot, blasting 32 winners in total to just 20 by Kanepi.

Fast-rising teenager Celine Naef of Switzerland, was a 6-1 6-0 winner over Tatiana Porozova from Russia in just 55 minutes, and takes on Hunter next.

Top qualifying seed Dayana Yastremska needed 3 sets to get past Lea Boskovic to get her campaign underway on Wednesday at Melbourne Park

© William West/AFP via Getty Images

Dayana Yastremska, the No 1 seed in women’s qualifying, will join Hunter in round 2, having needed 3 sets to get past Lea Boskovic from Croatia, 6-3 4-6 6-3, in the sometimes swirly conditions in Kia Arena.

While Wednesday featured a majority of 1st-round matches, there were a handful of players who earned their way into the final round of qualifying, including No 22 seed Sara Bejlek, a fast-rising 17-year-old from the Czech Republic, who beat Ankita Raina of India, 6-1 7-5.

No 3 seed Katie Volynets of the USA was also a winner, troubled little by Carol Zhao of Canada, 6-3 6-1.

The highest seed to go out on Wednesday was No 6 Laura Pigossi, the Brazilian who won the Pan American Games in both singles and doubles just a few weeks ago.

Having won the first set, she couldn’t make it count against Nigina Abduraimova, the World No 212 from Uzbekistan prevailing 5-7 7-5 6-0.



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