MELBOURNE – After a slow start, 19-year-old Montrealer Françoise Abanda revved up the machine and took care of Storm Sanders in the first round of the Aussie Open qualifying.
Her 10 double-faults didn’t hurt her in a 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 win over the Aussie wild card.
But she took the positive out of the more than 10-day gap between that match and her first round in Melbourne, using it to practice more and get used to the conditions.
“I was a bit nervous, holding back on my shots a little. But even though I didn’t play well, I’m happy I could win,” she said.
Abanda’s only other trip to Australia in the pro ranks (in 2015) ended in a bit of heartbreak in the first round when she had a match against Israeli veteran Shahar Pe’er under control, before coughing it up and losing in three sets. A year ago, she was playing a small-time Futures event in Florida and lost in the first round, so to get back to Melbourne is already something.
The next round has great potential, as Abanda will face a player with whom she developed a bit of a rivalry during her junior days in American Taylor Townsend. In the summer of 2012, the two met twice during the grass season, with Abanda (who came within a few games of joining Genie Bouchard in the Wimbledon junior final before losing to the more experienced Elina Svitolina), winning twice.
They met on Har-Tru last year in Florida, with Townsend winning in three sets. It should be a lot of fun.
“I hope I can make the main draw, I think I have a good chance, if I do the right things,” Abanda said. “Focus on myself, play clean tennis, and really stay focused. All the girls here are strong, the level is really high. So each match you have to prepare really, really well.”