Rodionova seals Play-off final spot
UPDATE: An emotional Arina Rodionova has clinched a place in the Australian Open 2016 Play-off final - just in time to rush off to her Saturday afternoon wedding.
Update 2pm: Arina Rodionova has overcome a gallant opponent and the distraction of her looming wedding to cement her place in the final of the Australian Open 2016 Play-off.
Rodionova, who is marrying Australian Rules footballer Ty Vickery on Saturday afternoon, completed a 1-6 6-4 7-5 victory over Storm Sanders on Saturday morning.
In the final she will face Maddison Inglis, who outlasted Naiktha Bains 6-2 2-6 6-2 in the second semifinal.
Played in extreme heat at Melbourne Park, Rodionova proved the fitter and feistier of the two players.
After trailing 5-3 in the third and then breaking as Sanders served for the match at 5-4, Rodionova staved off several break points in an epic 11th game to hold for a 6-5 lead.
Sanders required a medical timeout at the ensuing changeover to treat a sore back, and when she resumed Rodionova jumped all over her serve to run out a strong winner.
“I can’t really speak,” an emotional Rodionova said immediately after the match.
“I have a few hours to get ready and marry the most amazing guy ever and I’m so looking forward to it. It’s going to be an amazing day today, and it already is.
“I have no idea how I won this match – I didn’t play well but I just fought to the end and I guess that’s what counts. It was really tough to play today mentally … obviously the wedding is on my mind.
“I’m just so excited to get married right now – a few more hours to go!
“Just a good day all round today.”
Sanders began the match on fire, dictating play with her left-handed power and ceaselessly offensive as she built a 5-0 lead.
Rodionova settled in the second set and began to make more balls, while Sanders’ level dipped – soon the match was headed to a third.
Sanders looked the more likely player as her aggressive shotmaking pushed her ahead 4-2, but as the weather got warmer and the match wore on, Rodionova performed better.
“I’m not thinking about tomorrow – let me get through today first,” she laughed as she was asked to consider her final match on Sunday, the winner of which will secure an Australian Open 2016 main draw wildcard.
Inglis too strong for Bains
In a battle between two promising Australian juniors, Inglis held firm to advance to her second final in as many weeks at the December Showdown.
Last week, Inglis advanced to the 18/u Australian Championships final, where she was beaten by Priscilla Hon and missed out on a main draw wildcard at Australian Open 2016.
She’ll get a second bit at the cherry when she tackles Rodionova on Sunday.
“It feels really good – I’ve never been in this spot before,” Inglis said of reaching her first ever Play-off final.
“Maybe second time lucky!”
Inglis was the stronger of the pair in the first set, dictating play from the middle of baseline. Yet when Bains came back to take the second set and went up a break early in the third, Inglis knew a refreshed approach was necessary.
“I was a bit annoyed at myself for losing that second set, and I just kept getting angry at myself,” she revealed.
“So I decided, I’m just going to play, and just relax. Because I didn’t want to lose getting angry at myself.”
The Australian Open 2016 Play-off runs from 14-20 December at Melbourne Park. Join the conversation on Twitter using #AOPlayoff.