Challenging conditions were did little to hinder the progress of many of the seeds in the women’s qualifying singles at Australian Open 2013 on Friday, with American Maria Sanchez one of the few fancied players to fall on a day when temperatures skyrocketed to 37 degrees.
Sanchez, the 12th seed, was knocked out of the event by Chanel Simmonds, the South African prevailing 6-4 6-4 on Court 10.
Simmonds – who won two ITF events and reached the final of another to round out 2012 – has never reached the main draw of a Grand Slam, but was the more consistent player throughout.
After taking the first set, Simmonds was up 4-1 in the second before Sanchez mounted a comeback to level the score. The South African kept her composure, however, and said she handled the occasion well despite being without a coach who had to stay back home.
“I played well today. My match yesterday was about three hours and it was pretty hot ... but the heat wasn’t that bad today, maybe I didn’t notice it,” Simmonds said.
“My goal was to qualify for the tournament so there’s one more match to go. I’m playing well at the moment, so we’ll see.”
Sanchez came into the qualifying tournament off the back of a standout 2012, one that saw the 23-year-old jump 550 spots in the WTA rankings to No. 127 after a stellar four-year career at the University of Southern California, where she was ranked the top collegiate player in the USA.
Despite Sanchez’s pedigree, it was Simmonds who prevailed, seemingly happy to maintain long rallies while waiting for her opponent to crack.
“She (Sanchez) hits the ball really hard and she’s got a good backhand, but (I knew) she misses a lot on her forehand. I was just trying to target that, and it was working so I just stuck to that,” Simmonds said.
Earlier on Friday, 18-year-old Russian Daria Gavrilova tamed Canadian 24th seed Eugenie Bouchard after a 7-6(7) 7-6(6) tussle in the punishing heat.
Gavrilova – who saved set points in both sets – said she wasn’t fazed by the heat after training in Mauritius during her preseason.
“I’m used to the heat now. It didn’t affect me really because it’s not so humid,” she said.
“The only problem was it was also very sunny. From one side of the court we really couldn’t serve because when we toss (the ball), it was just on the sun so it was really tough.”
After scraping through the opening set, Gavrilova found herself down 1-4 in the second and had to take an injury timeout to address a bleeding right leg – something she said was nothing serious. The 2010 junior girls’ US Open champion is in a similar position to her Canadian opponent, both beginning their transition from the junior to senior circuits.
“It’s quite tough; I’m still struggling a little bit, more so mentally,” Gavrilova admitted.
“Us girls, we are now strong even if we’re young, but it’s more mental. The senior girls never give up and they know what they’re doing on court because it’s their job.”
Elsewhere, it was a successful day for many of the other top seeds, who advanced to the final round of qualifying with relative ease.
Italian eighth seed Karin Knapp took down compatriot Corinna Dentoni 6-0 7-5, while Hungarian third seed Greta Arn breezed past Ukranian Yuliya Beygelzimer 6-1 6-2.
Sixth-seeded Serb Vesna Dolonc beat Erika Sema 6-1 6-3, while German fourth seed Tatjana Malek overcame a poor start to rebound to a 0-6 6-4 6-3 win over American Nicole Gibbs.
Russian Vera Dushevina – who reached the fourth round of the Australian Open back in 2004 – showed her experience in trumping 18-year-old American Grace Min 6-2 6-4. Dushevina’s serve was the difference in the match, as she failed to drop a single service game while recording six aces.
Australia’s Arina Rodionova overcame a second-set slump against 30-year-old Spaniard Arantxa Parra Santonja to win 6-3 1-6 6-3.
Arina's sister Anastasia wasn’t so fortunate, going down in three sets to Russia’s Valeria Savinykh 7-6(5) 4-6 6-2.