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Discussions have resurfaced repeatedly about the quality and depth of Australian women's tennis for a good decade - raising a range of theories from coaching quality to adequate resources. Sam Stosur and Ash Barty, two Grand Slam champions in their own right, perhaps painted over one or two cracks in the nation's ability to produce players to contend for the biggest trophies, not just to make up the numbers in the top 100. Ajla Tomljanović and Daria Saville have led the way for several years now, notwithstanding their limitations which haven't been helped by hapless injuries along the way. The time for the next generation to shine is now - and there are a few names that are capable of springing life into Australia's future. Taylah Preston (18), and Olivia Gadecki (22), sit 138 and 166 on the live rankings respectively thanks to impressive results on the ITF tour - gradually dipping their toes into the WTA circuit. Perth-born talent, Talia Gibson, is firmly in the category of up-and-coming candidates to run with the baton and fly the Aussie flag for the foreseeable future. Five ITF titles and a top 200 debut isn't a bad resume for someone turning 20 next month - a confidence booster to show she has what it takes to reach the top. Her progression has been remarkable - claiming a career-best title at the Gold Coast Tour final late last year before pushing 17-year-old Czech prodigy Brenda Fruhvirtova to three sets with a match point slipped away during qualifying at Melbourne Park in January. Set to fly out to compete at the French Open qualifying rounds, The First Serve caught up with Gibson to share her journey from where it all began. "It all started when I was competing in the red ball stage for juniors and my family always supported me from day one," Gibson told The First Serve. "Once I got to the green ball stage I played Super 10s and then entered the junior Australia ranking tournaments which were local tournaments around Perth, before I was involved in junior money as I began to develop my game. "I was fortunate enough to enter the ITF junior events where the travel started to come into it which was really cool. Opportunities arrived to go on tours with some of Tennis Australia's coaches, so I was very lucky to experience that at a young age. "Unfortunately the Covid situation in 2020 prevented me from playing all the junior Grand Slams because at that stage I got my ranking to a point where I was good enough to compete, but after that, I decided with everyone around me to start playing on the women's tour when the chance presented itself." Transitioning into higher-level tournaments with more prize money and ranking points on the line is certainly no easy feat, especially for young teenagers who require the appropriate time to get their head around the mental and physical side of an individual sport. A certain external factor, however, is what Gibson needed to fine-tune in a regime that never sleeps. "Australian players are blessed because there's an abundance of ITF junior tournaments happening in different states, so in that sense, there were no challenges when it came to my youth development," she said. "In terms of international travel, it was more difficult to adjust as I tended to play a lot of events in Asia which was great to experience, but it took some time to adapt to a routine that could help me perform." One particular person who has proven instrumental during Gibson's upsurge in the past 12 months is her coach, Codie George, part of Tennis Australia's pool of National Academy coaches. The 30-year-old was selected by new Billie Jean King Cup captain Sam Stosur to join the coaching team last month as an 'orange girl' to only increase George's stocks further. Now, she's tasked with the responsibility of nurturing one of Australia's biggest prospects - building a solid rapport from the time they first crossed paths. "I've known Codie for a few years since my early teens when she was one of the coaches who was part of a junior tour in Germany, so that's when we first met," Gibson said. "All these years later to now be coached by her through Tennis Australia is awesome." "We've been working extremely well together and I'm super grateful for how much time and effort she puts into helping me work towards my goals and dreams. "To have someone like Codie who travels with me for tournaments is valuable for my growth. We've only been working together for over 12 months, but already we've developed a strong relationship. I love having her in my corner." A successful run to the final during an ITF event in Slovenia at the end of March helped Gibson rise to a career-high ranking of No.184 to signal promising signs of impressive maturity. Now currently No.188 in the world, an encouraging trajectory won't be enough to derail Gibson and lose sight of the significance of staying grounded. "It's fantastic to see where I am right now and it's always nice to reflect on the people closest to me who have constantly supported me which I'm always grateful. "They've helped me put into perspective my ranking position and ensure that I take it one step at a time because focusing on the bigger picture is most important. "Once it reaches a stage where I will need to focus more on my ranking such as defending points, I know I'll be ready because of the preparation beforehand and taking slow steps both on and off the court to help make me make the most out of every experience and challenge I face. As minimal exposure to clay courts across the country often appears in hot debates during this time of year, it's no secret that Australian players have notoriously struggled as soon as they step onto the red dirt. Gearing up for her first taste of Grand Slam action in Paris starting next week, Gibson has earned her position in qualifying to be within three victories of securing her second appearance at a major - nearly 18 months since her first-round debut at the 2023 Australian Open. Nine different tournaments spanning six countries since February this season for Gibson have resulted in all those matches being tussled on the hard courts. However, the clay swing will be approached with positivity and optimism by Western Australia's newest star. "Clay isn't a surface that I've predominately played on in the past because when I was younger I typically practised on the hard courts and grass," Gibson admitted. "I'm about to play at the French Open in Paris for the first time, so the fact that it's clay is exciting because I see it as a new opportunity to learn and adapt to the surface better. I'm doing everything I can to give myself the best chance. "My team is visiting Perth this week to help me train on the clay and familiarise myself with the different conditions before I head over which will broaden my game and introduce an element of comfort." Reaching the desired top echelon of any sport boils down to a range of factors including talent, hard work, dedication, and long hours. Gibson has ticked all those boxes throughout her young career thus far, yet the extra emphasis on ameliorating specific aspects of her game doesn't just happen overnight - only the work has just commenced. "The two main traits of my game would be my serve and backhand which are the two strengths that I try to utilise on the court to set myself up to finish points," she said. "Although it's great to have some weapons to fall back on, I want to keep improving so that I can build more strengths and become a better well-rounded player which is one of the things I'm striving to achieve for the future." Still yet to escape her teens, Gibson's future is nothing but bright - leaving room for faults both on and off the court in what is still a development phase despite accomplishing early prosperity. Condensing a distinct focal point on the remainder of the calendar year to achieve small goals is the main priority. "To play at all four Grand Slams this year would be incredible as I've been aspiring toward that for as long as I can remember playing tennis. "In the short-term, my main focus is entering as many WTA events to enhance my ranking because the earlier I can do that, the easier it will become to transition into facing higher-quality opponents. "If I can keep improving my game from now until the end of the year, then that will put me in a great place to kick on and anything can happen from there."


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