A run through qualifying and an upset over world No.22 Sorana Cistea at last week's WTA event in Auckland came a fraction too late for women’s qualifying top seed Sharon Fichman, whose new ranking of world no.69 would have granted her direct access to the Australian Open main draw.
Fichman is competing for one of 16 qualifying spots in the main draw of the women’s singles at Australian Open 2014 but faces a tough first-round match-up against last year’s junior world No.1 Belinda Bencic – a player who claimed both junior French and Wimbledon singles titles in 2013. The Swiss 16-year-old grew up being coached by Martina Hingis’s mother Melanie Molitor and is bidding to reach her first grand slam main draw.
Bencic’s junior rival, Croatian Ana Konjuh, captured the junior Australian and US Open titles last year and has already made waves in 2014, having upended world No.14 Roberta Vinci, the top seed in Auckland last week. Konjuh opens against Latvian Diana Marcinkevica.
Australian former world No.62 Anastasia Rodionova will have her work cut out to reach her seventh Australian Open main draw with American second seed Coco Vandeweghe her first obstacle. Vandeweghe, whose mother represented the United States in Olympic swimming and volleyball, is currently sitting at 111th in the world.
Rodionova won the doubles title last week in Brisbane with Russian Alla Kudryavtseva, a former top-60 player who will open her qualifying campaign against former French world No.15 Aravane Rezai. Rodionova’s sister Arina, fresh from a runner-up finish to Casey Dellacqua in last month’s Australian Open wildcard play-off, will face British seventh seed Heather Watson. The Brit came through qualifying in a stacked Brisbane field last week and is looking to return to her career-best of No.40 in the world.
Other Australians joining the Rodionovas in the qualifying draw are Priscilla Hon, Maddison Inglis, Naiktha Bains, Tammi Patterson and Sara Tomic, the 15-year-old sister of Bernard Tomic.
Tomic Jr contested qualifying in Sydney this week and faces a difficult first clash with Austrian Tamira Pazcek, a two-time former Wimbledon quarterfinalist.
Meanwhile, last year’s WTA Tour Comeback Player of the Year Alisa Kleybanova continues her return to the game after beating Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The Russian former top 20 player, best remembered in Australia for her marathon loss to Jelena Dokic on Rod Laver Arena four years ago, takes on ninth seed Kristina Pliskova of the Czech Republic.
Qualifying matches begin at 10 am at Melbourne Park, entry is free. If you can’t make it to Melbourne Park, you can follow the live scores and live video streaming on here on ausopen.com.