Destanee’s the child for Aussie tennis
Destanee Aiava has displayed maturity, power and poise belying her 16 years to storm through qualifying and take her place in the Brisbane International main draw.
Her mum is her self-taught coach, her dad takes her in mixed martial arts training, she’s a proud Samoan and supports the All Blacks, but Destanee Aiava is Australia’s brightest rising tennis star.
Eleven years after Serena Williams sparked her interest in a sport her parents knew nothing about, the Melbourne 16-year-old is looking the part and playing a power-game like her childhood idol.
Aiava on Sunday assured herself of performing in the main draw of two home tournaments this summer after blazing her way through the heat and past more experienced qualifying rivals at the Brisbane International.
With a wildcard already locked up for the Australian Open thanks to winning last month’s national under-18 girls title, she lost just a combined eight games by dominating her three qualifying matches in Brisbane.
The strong baseliner booked her place beside Sam Stosur and Ash Barty as the third Australian in the 30-strong women’s field in Brisbane by sweeping aside German world No.86 Carina Witthoeft 6-1 6-1.
Like many Polynesian footballers, Aiava, whose father Mark is a powerlifter who also coaches in MMA, is physically mature beyond her years and boasts biceps of which Stosur would be proud.
But her tennis skills have been honed by her mother Rosie, a former rugby player and kickboxer, who had to learn the game before teaching her talented daughter.
It was all a result of watching Williams win the 2005 Australian Open.
“I was, like, ‘I want to become No. 1 in the world’,” she said.
“It was just her (Williams’) vibe. Like, I couldn’t feel it from the other side of the TV, but it was just her energy, and that kind of drew me to the sport.
“And they’re like ‘Oh, tennis? Oh, we didn’t know anything about tennis’.”
Among her unconventional training methods is MMA cross-training and wearing tracksuits this summer to acclimatise for the heat on court, which soared to 35C as she closed out Witthoeft in 64 minutes.
Boasting a big serve and cracking forehand, she raced to 6-1 4-0 but was made to work hard to overcome the German and late match jitters.
Aiava will fancy her chances of continuing her purple patch against colourful American Bethanie Mattek-Sands who was forced to work much harder to come through qualifying.