Arina Rodionova impresses with victory in WTA second leg at Brisbane International | tennis

Australia’s Arina Rodionova has enjoyed her WTA return, scoring a shock victory over Italy’s Martina Trevisan in their opening match at the Brisbane International.

The 33-year-old overcame early breaks of serve in both sets to win 6-3, 6-2 against Trevisan, who reached his career-high ranking of 18th in May, in the first game of the tournament at Pat Rafter Arena on Sunday.

Rodionova, world number 114, is Australia’s highest-ranked woman but needed a wildcard to compete in her first top-level event in almost two years.

She has worked tirelessly to regain fitness, overcoming a wrist injury in 2022 and dominating at the lower ITF level this year to rise from No. 302 in the world.

Rodionova has won an impressive seven ITF singles titles and 78 matches this year and will now face former Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin of the USA in the second round.

“I had so much fun today – I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun being on the court,” Rodionova said.

“I was out for eight months. It was a tough time and I started again last year, played over 100 games and now feel very confident on the pitch.

“Don’t take it (your health) for granted – I think you can see I’m really having fun out here.”

Alexei Popyrin later outlasted Chris O’Connell in a typically tense all-Australian clash to start the summer of tennis in Brisbane.

The world number 40 won 6-4, 6-7 (7-5), 7-6 (7-4), taking more than three hours to complete a slugfest in the first round of the Brisbane International on Sunday.

Popyrin’s big serve was never broken and he controlled things early, but world number 68 O’Connell held on until a trio of costly misses cost him the game in the third set tiebreak.

With the score at 3-2, a sharp forehand from O’Connell went narrowly wide before he fired a simple volley into the net and then missed a regulation backhand.

This belied an otherwise stoic performance from the Sydney man, who turned heads before an 82-win season in the lower ranks in 2019 catapulted him from outside the top 1000 to within sight of the top 100.

O’Connell and Popyrin are now two of ten Australian men ranked in the world’s top 116.

“This is a battle for the last game of the year, but what a battle it was,” Popyrin said on the pitch after the win.

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“If I hadn’t concentrated, I would have easily lost this game.

“If he keeps playing like this, he will definitely achieve great things this summer.”

Popyrin has had a successful 2023 himself and has his sights set on deeper Grand Slam runs in 2024, having made five third rounds at majors but never progressed beyond that.

First he faces the winner of exciting American Ben Shelton and Russian Roman Safiullin, who will appear in Monday’s daytime session at the Pat Rafter Arena.

American Sloane Stephens defeated Czech player Katerina Siniakova 7:5, 6:3, while former Austrian US Open champion Dominic Thiem narrowly survived qualification and beat the Italian world number 135. Giulio Zeppieri defeated 3:6, 6:4, 6:4.

Thiem made a great escape against Australia’s James McCabe on Saturday, saving three match points after a brown snake slithered along the sidelines and delayed play.

He could face Rafael Nadal in the first round as the Spanish star earned a qualifying match on his injury comeback.

Andy Murray and Nadal will also play in separate doubles matches before competing in singles on Monday or Tuesday.

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