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A mere 12 months ago, just a few short hours before Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina played out one of the great women’s Australian Open finals of all time, there was an entrée on Rod Laver Arena, which may go down in hindsight, as an even better match, and a preview of what’s to come in the next decade.

The junior girls final lasted over 3 hours and 18 gruelling minutes, in hot and humid conditions, which would’ve tested even the most seasoned professional. Yet this battle was fought between two best friends – two 15 year old Russian girls.

Alina Korneeva and Mirra Andreeva joined up as doubles partners for the week, falling in the semi-finals to the 4th seeds. But being drawn on opposite sides of the singles draw, meant they were destined to clash in the singles final. Korneeva, the 9th seed, and Andreeva, the 7th seed, put on an extraordinary showcase of tennis, belying their age. Eventually, Korneeva came out on top, 6-7 6-4 7-5, yet amazingly, across the entire match, Korneeva won a total of 139 points, to Andreeva’s 138.

While they may not have been the top picks to make the final, based on seedings at the time, results don’t lie, and both are moving quickly on the WTA tour. Australian tennis fans are now the lucky beneficiaries this week, getting a close up look at this new generation coming through.

Mirra Andreeva is currently ranked 47 in the world, after a stunning year, winning her first WTA match in Madrid against Leylah Fernandez, before knocking over Beatriz Haddad Maia, and Magda Linette, eventually going down to Aryna Sabalenka in the 4th round.

She made the 3rd round of the French Open, pushing Coco Gauff to 3 sets, before a scintillating fourth round run at Wimbledon, beating 2 top 30 players, and going the distance with Madison Keys.

Last week Mirra made the 4th round of Brisbane, and on Monday, is poised to make her Australian Open women’s debut against Bernarda Pera, ranked 69, from the United States. Amazingly, the 16-year-old is likely to go in as a firm favourite, where a win would see her in a potential round 2 clash with world number 6, Ons Jabeur.

Meanwhile, Alina Korneeva, currently ranked 180, hasn’t quite had the same impact of her good friend, only making her WTA tour debut in October, at the Hong Kong event, winning through qualifying, and reaching the second round.

However, during 2023, Alina also won the junior French Open, and became the ITF world number 1 junior. Just weeks after that triumph, Korneeva entered a 100K women’s event on the ITF tour, and ran the table, winning through qualifying, and then storming through the main draw, on the way to a 6-0 6-0 victory in the final. In doing so, she became the youngest person to win a W100 title.

This week, Alina has shown the grit and fight that came to the fore on that hot Melbourne day in 2023. With a ranking not high enough for direct entry, she was required to battle it out on the back courts….and battle she did.

In the first round, a 2 hour 20 minute struggle against Sachia Vickery of the USA, culminating in a 6-4 3-6 7-5 victory over the world number 138. This was followed by a nearly 3 hour marathon over Chinese competitor, Ye-Xin Ma, 7-5 4-6 7-6.

In the final qualification hurdle, Alina faced world number 118, Hungarian Anna Bondar. This time, a relatively straight forward win, 6-3 6-3, to see her into her first main draw women’s Grand Slam.

Her reward, is a showdown with Spanish world number 53, Sara Sorribes Tormo. Sara has been as high as 32, but even she would know that this first round clash is going to be anything but straight-forward.

With 3 quality matches at Melbourne Park under the belt, who’s to say Alina Korneeva can’t begin her Grand Slam career with a win?

And if both players are able to win 5 matches each, we’ll be blessed with another showdown – this time in a women’s semi-final. While that might be too much to ask, you can be fairly certain last year’s junior final won’t be the last time we see them across the net from each other.

One last point….keep an eye on the junior tournament during the second week. If last year is anything to go by, you may not have to wait too long before the young kids of today, are the superstars of tomorrow.


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