MELBOURNE, Australia – Same time, next year?
On Jan. 14, 2022, Canadian Rebecca Marino and Russia’s Kamilla Rakhimova played an absolute barnburner of a final-round qualifying match at the Australian Open.
It went to a match tiebreak. The Hawkeye Live system went down, causing an inopportune break.
It was all happening.
In the end, Marino prevailed 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (10-7) and moved onto the main draw in Melbourne for the second straight year. She lost to Marie Bouzkova, 6-1, 6-3.
Fast forward EXACTLY one year, to Jan. 14, 2023.
And there were Marino and Rakhimova on the court again. Not the same court, but at the same place.
Their fortunes have improved in a year. Instead of batting it out in the qualifying, Marino is ranked No. 67 and is straight into the draw.
Rakhimova, who had been higher than that last summer (career high of No. 65 came June 6, 2022), was still in good shape at the Australian Open entry deadline to get straight in and make her main draw debut.
So they were practicing together ahead of their Monday start.
Here’s what they looked like, a year later.
Marino and Rakhimova went back-to-back on Court 14 in their first-round matches Monday, with Rakhimova’s marathon defeat at the hands of Ukraine’s Kateryna Baindl (2h52) meaning Marino didn’t even get on court (as the third match on) until 7 p.m. or so.
Before that, France’s Corentin Moutet went five sets and 4h14.
The two actually met during the crazy 2021 pandemic version of the Australian Open, when the qualifying was held in the Middle East and the qualifiers had to grab last-minute spots on the charters that were going down to Melbourne.
That year, they had decided that a player had to have a designated practice partner the whole time, before the tournament began. They called it a “cohort”.
Marino made it, and got to the second round of the main draw.
The two didn’t know each other. But because Rakhimova made it to the final round of qualifying and might have been in line to be a lucky loser (and was entered in a tournament the week before the main event), she also was headed down and they were paired off.
And they hit it off.