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It's been a long time since former World No. 9 and 2017 Australian Open semi-finalist Coco Vandeweghe has been able to say she feels healthy.

The current World No. 174 is back in Australia, kicking off her 2022 season at the ITF Bendigo International, and on Tuesday advanced to the second round with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 win over Japan's Yuki Naito.

"It's my first match of the year, rusty as all heck, but you know you've got to get through those wins, tough ones, good ones - it doesn't matter as long as you get the win," Vandeweghe told The First Serve's Jack Holland following her win.

The feisty American has endured a horror run with injuries since breaking into the WTA's top 10 in 2018. Two separate stress fractures in her foot led to a complex pain syndrome in that area, as well as a freak accident in the kitchen, where she badly sliced her finger. These have sidelined her for an accumulative two years.

But now, after missing last years Australian summer of tennis, she is back, and finally feels healthy again.

"I feel really good. Tom and I, my coach, have been working really hard this off-season trying to put in a lot of hard yards just because I finally feel healthy," Vandeweghe exclaimed.

"It's been a long road to feel healthy, but you know, once I do, you might as well go for it, so that's what I'm trying to do."

"Give this one more last push and see what I've got basically," the 30-year-old added.

Playing in an ITF tournament in Bendigo certainly doesn't match the glamorous heights of the WTA Tour that the American has experienced in her career, but she's willing to put in the hard yards with the top 100 in her sights.

"It's a little bit different from when I was playing two years ago, coming back through these ITF's, there's a lot going on. Keeping yourself in control of what you can do is kind of what was my motto out there," Vandeweghe said.

"Getting back to the top 100, that's the number one goal. I'd like to get myself into the main draw through my own ranking at Wimbledon and that's kind of the goal," Vandeweghe stated.

But for now, she is firmly focused on this weeks tournament in Bendigo, and then hopes to successfully navigate her way through Australian Open qualifying.

"I want to take care of business out here and then we'll think about the Australian Open."

"Obviously, the first thing is to qualify. I have great memories at the Australian Open, great matches there. I've qualified once before so let's see if I can do it again."

In the second round in Bendigo, Vandeweghe will come up against fellow American Hanna Chang.


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