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The Melbourne Summer Set got underway on Monday morning with qualifying for the main draw producing some mixed results for the field of Aussies.

The day belonged to 16-year-old West Australian Taylah Preston who upstaged former World No. 5 Sara Errani. The other big result of the day came in the form of a straight-sets win for rising star Rinky Hijikata.

Preston secured the biggest win of her fledgling career by knocking off the 2012 Roland Garros runner-up 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 in an hour and 44 minutes on Court 7. The Aussie capitalised on the Italian’s second serve, winning 82% of those points to set up the victory.

Preston won 25 of her 28 matches on the ITF Junior Tour in 2021 and judging from this performance, has a big future ahead of her. Next up, she faces fellow Aussie Destanee Aiava for a spot in the main draw.

Winning well on Court 13 was World No. 375 Hijikata, who defeated American World No. 105, Denis Kudla 6-1, 7-5 in an hour and 21 minutes. The Aussie won 69% of points on his first serve and 63% on his second, while converting 4/7 break points to secure the win. Hijikata won four titles on the ITF Tour in 2021 and looks ready to make the jump.

The only other Aussie male in action on the opening day was local lad Marc Polmans who fell to Argentinian Sebastian Baez 5-7, 2-6 in an hour and 26 minutes.

In the last match of the day, Aiava proved too strong for World No. 104 Qiang Wang, prevailing 7-6, 6-4 in an hour and 44 minutes. Aiava won 66% of points on her first serve and 75% on her second to keep her Chinese opponent at bay. The Aussie is ranked 212 places behind Wang and should be thrilled with her first hitout of the year.

Also on the winner’s list was Aussie Kimberly Birrell, who won a hard-fought three-set battle against Italian Martina Trevisan 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and 35 minutes. The Aussie converted 5/9 breakpoints to help seal the victory. Next up, she faces Dutchwoman Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove for a spot in the main draw.

In other results, Aussie Alexandra Osborne came up short against Montenegrin Danka Kovinic 2-6, 1-6 in 55 minutes. Fellow Australian Olivia Tjandramulia was ousted by Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich 2-6, 3-6 in just over an hour.

Tina Nadine Smith had a rough day against former World No. 23 Lesia Tsurenko, going down to love in both sets on Court 8. Aussie Gabriella Da Silva Fick suffered the same fate at the hands of Lin Zhu in 54 minutes. Alicia Smith was no match for China’s Xinyu Wang, going down 2-6, 2-6 in an hour and 10 minutes.


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