January 29, 2023

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AO Canadian Corner: Sebov upsets Noskova

MELBOURNE, Australia – You wonder, if she had to make that choice and couldn’t have both, if Linda Noskova would choose qualifying and making a run to the Adelaide 500 final last week (vaulting her ranking to No. 56), or qualifying at the Australian Open this week.

It’s a moot point, because Noskova is out, beaten in the first round of qualifying by Canadian Katherine Sebov Tuesday

Sebov, who turned 24 last week, defeated Noskova 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 and advanced to a second-round match against Australian Priscilla Hon on Wednesday.

Here’s what it looked like.

From Center Court to … Court 17

On Sunday, Noskova faced Aryna Sabalenka on a full stadium court in Adelaide.

She had saved a match point in the qualifying and another during the week, and this was her seventh singles match in the Adelaide heat.

Less than 48 hours later, she was all the way back on Court 17 at Melbourne Park, which you can’t find without a map.

It’s by far the court in the worst condition on the site. The leaves from the trees that surround the back of it shed leaves that require the ballkids to come on every once in awhile and use the court vacuum to clear it up.

There might have been a couple dozen fans watching, at most.

It was a situation where Noskova would somehow summon up a reserve of energy and adrenaline and get through. Or she wouldn’t.

She couldn’t. Although Sebov’s fine play was a contributing factor.

Sebov hangs tough

The Canadian, ranked at a career high No. 191 coming in, has been inside the top 200 for only a handful of weeks; she’s spent most of it in the 200s and 300s and always looking for a breakthrough.

She played the Australian Open qualifying just once before, losing in the first round to Jessika Ponchet in 2019 – pre-pandemic. She played the US Open qualifying that year. But that’s been it at the very top level.

And her victory over Noskova was her first.

“It means a lot, for sure. Because I came out, I had no idea if I was going to win or lose. Obviously, she’s very good player, second seed of the tournament. It’s definitely a really big win for me,” Sebov said afterwards.

“Obviously, she’s very powerful. Her serve was tough to break. It was definitely putting a lot of pressure on me. And I mean, she’s so young and doing so well,” she added.

Noskova’s shoulders were sagging by the third set of her first-round qualifying match at Melbourne Park against Canadian Katherine Sebov

But Sebov noticed that Noskova was wearing down. “I think she was kind of tired. So I was trying to use that against her. I definitely had that in my favour,” he said. “At the same time, she’s played a lot of matches, so she has good feel and less pressure. But I had less pressure because I was playing you know, someone who was doing better than me.”

The condtions were blustery and cool – the same for both. But Sebov said she likes playing in the wind.

(No player ever has said this and truly meant it. But Sebov said she’s come to understand that if you can’t beat it – you can’t; Mother Nature always wins – you join it).

“You just don’t have high expectations for the day, you know? If it’s not clean, it’s okay. As long as you play better than the other person. It’s kind of like winning ugly,” Sebov said. ” And then just using it – so if you’re with the wind, using a kick serve or if you’re against the wind, flatten it out, keep it low.”

For Noskova, currently ranked No. 56 in the world but really with nowhere to play for the next three weeks, it’s a tough blow.

But she’s 18; it might not be much consolation at the moment. But she’ll have plenty more. And with her new status she won’t have to spend too much energy in the qualifying from now on.

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