July 22, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

MELBOURNE, Australia – There were five Canadians on the schedule Tuesday at the Australian Open, after the first round of qualifying Monday was completely washed out by rain.

On the whole, the Canadians rocked it.

Only Stacey Fung, who got into the draw fairly last minute after making her debut playing mixed doubles at the United Cup a few days before, ended up on the losing end.

The other four – Gabriel Diallo, Rebecca Marino, Katherine Sebov and Carol Zhao all got through.

Here’s what it looked like, on a picture-perfect Melbourne summer day.

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RIERA def. FUNG 61 64

Fung and Julia Riera, a young Argentine and the No. 25 seed, were first up on Court 17, which is about as far from the rest of the complex as you can get. Although it’s the closest to John Cain Arena.

It was Fung’s Grand Slam debut. She did travel to New York for the last US Open. But in the end, she ended up just short of squeezing into the qualifying.

Fung, who turns 27 next month, played college tennis at the University of Washington. So she’s embarking on a pro career a little later than most.

Her main problem vs Riera was that she didn’t serve quite hard enough; she had trouble getting to 150 km/hour. And so Riera was able to take aggressive cuts on the return.

Riera was also better on defence and had a little more variety. In the end, although Fung led 3-1 in the second set, it was a fairly routine win for Riera.

ZHAO def. SAVINYKH 63, 76 (7)

At the complete opposite end of the site, on Court 14, Carol Zhao played the Australian Open qualifying for the third time. She lost in the first round in 2018, and then in the second round a year ago – in a third-set supertiebreaker to Clara Burel, no less.

This time, she won fairly routinely against Russian veteran Savinykh, who is capable of great tennis but gifted Zhao with a few freebies in that second-set tiebreak.

The final point was a cardio special, a lung buster that the fit Zhao ultimately won.

She will play No. 3 seed Katie Volynets in the second round – a northern California special as Volynets hails from there (Walnut Creek) and Zhao went to Stanford and still spends plenty of time there.

DIALLO def. LLAMAS RUIZ 76 (3) 61

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All the way back across the site to Court 17, for more Canadian content

Gabriel Diallo was the only Canadian seeded in the qualifying, at No. 29.

He faced Llamas Ruiz, who at No. 158 isn’t ranked that much lower and is slightly younger than Diallo, who just turned 22.

At 6-foot-2, Llamas Ruiz is no shrimp but the 6-8 Diallo made him look rather diminutive. He just had too much game.

Diallo will now play French veteran Pierre-Hugues Herbert, whose career high in singles of No. 36 came in Feb. 2019, but who hasn’t been the same player since the pandemic.

SEBOV def ARANGO 64 64

On Court 5, Katherine Sebov took on No. 9 seed Emiliana Arango, once a rising young prospect who has run into a lot of injury issues.

A year ago, Sebov qualified for her first Grand Slam main draw here.

We’ll see if she can follow that up with another qualification.

Sebov seemed the better player, but she was helped by Arango turning her ankle late in the second set. The Colombian finished the match, but was visibly hampered.

Still, a win is a win.

Sebov will take on Ysaline Bonaventure, a Belgian veteran who is back after taking a break from the tour in the latter part of 2023. She’s into the qualifying on a protected ranking.

MARINO def. YANG 76 (3) 60

Marino has returned to the court after the offseason looking healthy and fit.

It looks like she might have dropped 20 pounds or so; last year, with a number of nagging injuries – notably her knee – she wasn’t able to play and train the way she wanted to. So it was a tough, tough one.

She looked amazing.

Her opponent, 14 years younger than Marino at 19, was hitting the lines early. But she wasn’t able to keep that up. And after grinding out the first set, Marino rolled to a bagel in the second, and a victory.

Marino plays Frenchwoman Jessika Ponchet and her funky game in the second round.

Only Zhao is scheduled for Wednesday, with the schedule backed up from Monday and plenty of first-round matches still to complete.

The other matches will take place on Thursday.

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