Adelaide International main draw action kicked off on Monday at Memorial Drive, and on what was a relatively successful day for the Aussies in action, one shined brighter than the rest.
Brisbane's Priscilla Hon produced a stunning upset, coming from a set and a break down to record a 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-2 victory over two-time Wimbledon champion and World No. 17 Petra Kvitova, progressing to the second round of the Adelaide International on Monday at Memorial Drive.
The first set was tight with no breaks of serve, Kvitova eventually prevailing 7-4 in a tie-breaker.
The second set produced another arm wrestle. Kvitova broke Hon's serve to take a 4-2 lead, and looked well on her way to a straight sets victory. But Hon had other ideas, reeling off five of the next six games to subsequently take the second set 7-5 and force a decider.
With all the momentum heading into the final set, Hon blazed away to a 4-0 lead, smoking the ball and finding pockets of the court that the Czech veteran could not get to.
Kvitova fought hard but a resilient display from the Aussie saw her clinch her maiden top 20 win, taking the third set 6-2.
“It doesn’t really feel real right now. Will probably sink in later. But I’m just so happy right now. I can’t even explain how much I’ve been waiting for this moment,” Hon said in her on-court post match interview.
“(I'm) Pretty proud of how I held up at the end. I’ve been working really hard at that and staying calm, and obviously against the top players they don’t give it to you, so you’ve got to really work hard for it.
“I was injured for almost a year, so I think I was even more pumped to come back on tour and just focus on what I’ve been wanting to the last couple of years, and really seeing it happen tonight has proved that it’s working," Hon said.
Hon was one of nine Aussies in action in Adelaide on Monday.
In the match that followed Hon's on centre court, despite fighting hard, fellow Aussie wildcard Aleksandar Vukic was knocked out in the first round of the men's main draw by seasoned American Steve Johnson.
Johnson won what was a tight battle of the forehands, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.
Earlier in the day, Ajla Tomljanovic moved into the second round of women's main draw action, defeating Heather Watson of Great Britain 6-4, 7-6(5).
After winning the first set, Tomljanovic had to produce her best tennis as the pair engaged in some epic rallies which kept the crowd entertained.
The World No. 45 broke Watson's serve to take a 4-3 lead, and saved multiple break points to convert and move 5-3 ahead.
The gritty Brit fought hard to break back and force a tie-break, but with the home crowd behind her, it was Tomljanovic who stood strong to win the breaker 7-5.
Australian Storm Sanders was unable to join Hon and Tomljanovic on the winners list, going down in a three set battle with 7th seed Elena Rybakina from Kazakhstan.
Sanders fought hard all day, as she always does, and with a buoyant home crowd behind her - came from a set behind to force a decider, but Rybakina’s class shone in the end, silencing the crowd to claim a 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 win.
In the final round of women's qualifying, Maddison Inglis recorded an impressive straight sets win to book her place in the main draw.
The Aussie won the first set 6-1 against Spain’s Irene Burillo Escorihuela and despite being down 3-2 in the second set, she bounced back to turn things around and take it 6-4, advancing to the main draw where she will face American Shelby Rogers on Tuesday.
Daria "Dasha" Saville also won through to the main draw with a gritty three set victory over Britain's Katie Boulter.
Down 5-4 in the first set, Dasha reeled off three games in a row to claim it 7-5.
Boulter had the better of Saville in the second set, but the Aussie managed to turn things around with the home crowd behind, prevailing 7-5, 3-6, 6-4.
Saville will face No. 5 seed and 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek on Tuesday in the first round of the main draw.
The third and final Aussie in qualifying action, 17-year-old star of the future Charlotte Kempenaers-Pocz lost her final round of qualifying match against Ulrikke Eikeri from Norway 6-3, 3-6, 3-6.
With the home crowd strongly behind her, Kempenaers-Pocz forged a mini comeback in the third set, rallying from 0-5 down to get it back to 3-5, but wasn't able to go further.
In doubles action, Aussie pair Alex Bolt and Thanasi Kokkinakis bowed out with a straight sets defeat to Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi and Monaco's Hugo Nys 2-6, 6-7(8).
Both Bolt and Kokkinakis will return to the court on Tuesday for their first round main draw matches.
Away from the Aussies in action; after a 2021 that saw her vault into the world’s top 10 and secure a spot at the year ending WTA Finals in Mexico, Greece’s Maria Sakkari will be hoping 2022 will see her status elevated further to that of Grand Slam champion.
To do this though, she’ll need to sharply improve on her scratchy opening match of the year where she survived a second set bagel at the hands of Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek, before winning 6-2, 0-6, 6-4.
The US Open semi-finalist looked set for an easy afternoon when she broke Zidansek three times in the first set to take it 6-2. Sakkari’s first serve deserted her in the second set though and the World No. 30, Zidansek, capitalised, winning it to love.
Sakkari responded with an early break in the third to lead 3-0 before Zidansek broke back and levelled at 4-4. On the brink of an upset, Zidansek committed crucial unforced errors to hand Sakkari one final break which she converted to win the deciding set 6-4 and avoid an embarrassing start to what could be a big year.
US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez has served notice that she’s ready to go one better at the Australian Open later this month, with a comprehensive straight-sets win in the first round of women's singles action.
The 19-year-old Canadian dispatched Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-3, 6-4, in a performance that showcased her ground strokes, court coverage and return of serve.
While separated by only ten places in the world rankings, the World No. 24, Fernandez made the gap appear much bigger on court as she held serve comfortably and then immediately put her opponent’s serve under stress. In the fourth game of the first set, Alexandrova survived two break points before succumbing to a third and giving Fernandez a lead should wouldn’t relinquish. She closed out the first set 6-3 then quickly went about finishing the job, this time breaking Alexandrova in the just third game. The Russian was struggling to make any inroads on the Fernandez serve, while frequently facing break-points on her own and a real thrashing looked on the cards when she was down two break points at 3-1.
To her credit - Alexandrova fought them off and battled hard to hold serve for the rest of the match, but unforced errors and quality of Fernandez’ serving prevented her from ever mounting a comeback. On this evidence, Ferandez won’t be ranked in the 20’s for too much longer.