Aiava books Australian Open berth
Destanee Aiava won a pulsating final against Jaimee Fourlis to claim the 18/u girls' Australian Championships title and book her place at the 2017 Australian Open.
Top seed Destanee Aiava is set to make a little history after claiming the 18/u girls’ title at the Australian Championships, having also claimed a main draw wildcard for the 2017 Australian Open with a 7-5 6-3 victory over Jaimee Fourlis.
The 16-year-old will become the first player born this century to play at a Grand Slam when she returns to Melbourne Park in January after backing up her No.1 seeding in a pulsating final against an opponent she knows only too well.
“We’re close friends,” Aiava said, something that added another level of intrigue to a high-quality contest – though the younger finalist admitted: “It’s really tough.
“I think it came down to who wanted it more. I was just trying to stay composed and not think too far ahead.”
Aiava and Fourlis, the No.2 seed, put their friendship to one side to serve up some blistering ball-striking in the sunshine on another chilly day at Melbourne Park.
Neither girl gave an inch until the closing stages of a lengthy first set, when Aiava’s power off the ground proved irresistible when it mattered as she snatched the crucial break late on.
Fourlis, playing with a heavily strapped right elbow, pushed hard at the start of the second set, but failed to convert a string of break point chances at 1-1 and was made to pay when the world No.388 broke in the next game to open up a 4-1 lead.
Again the 17-year-old rallied, digging deep from 0-30 down at 5-2 to stay in the contest and saving two match points with some fearless hitting at 5-3. Two break-back points came and went before she saved a third match point but Aiava was not to be denied, unleashing a backhand winner to seal the title before sinking to the court.
“The thought of receiving the wildcard into my favourite Grand Slam” was behind her reaction, she admitted. “I was really shocked – and still am, it hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
Fourils’s run to the final has booked her a spot in next week’s Australian Open wildcard play-off and a berth in the Australian Open qualifying draw in January, but Aiava can already start thinking about who she might be drawn against when the tennis world descends on Melbourne next month.
“I’d like to play Serena, she’s my idol, so that would be a good experience,” Aiava said, beaming. “I’m really excited.”
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