Penrith NSW, Australia, 18 September 2017 | David Packman

Fourth seed Jaimee Fourlis returns to the Penrith Tennis International this week after a breakthrough year, one in which she has balanced her first two Grand Slam appearances alongside her Year 12 studies.

“It’s definitely been a fun year,” Fourlis, 18, reflected on Monday. “It all started with winning the Wildcard Play-Off and then playing in the Australian Open, then winning the French Open wildcard which was a really great experience. I’ve loved every minute of it.”

The current world No.327 said she is hitting the ball well. “I’ve been working on a couple of things, working hard in the gym as well. There’s always up and downs throughout the year, that’s normal, but I’m looking forward to starting the Australian swing again and trying to do well.”

First up in Penrith, Fourlis will face compatriot Ellen Perez on Wednesday.

“She’s come back from college (in the USA) playing some great tennis,” Fourlis said. “It will be a really tough match, she’s a great competitor.”

Should she advance, Fourlis is on track to meet Japanese No.5 seed Mai Minokoshi in a quarterfinal with second seed Olivia Rogowska, who opens her account against Sara Tomic, potentially waiting in the wings beyond that.

Fourlis will compete in Pro Tour events in Penrith, Toowoomba, Brisbane and Cairns before sitting her Year 12 exams in November. “It’s been tough and good,” she said when questioned about the balance between tennis and study. “But at the same time, I can’t wait until it’s over. Hopefully I will be able to travel a bit more, play a few more tournaments, and feel a bit freer.”

Penrith’s top seed, American Asia Muhammad, has drawn local qualifier Anne-Marie Medcalf in her opening match, with an intriguing second round encounter looming with compatriot, former top 20 player and Wimbledon semifinalist Alexandra Stevenson.

Tammi Patterson, the No.3 seed, takes on Zoe Hives, but also has the likes of Maddison Inglis and Kimberley Birrell in her section of the draw, before a potential quarterfinal against Abigail Tere-Apisah of Papua New Guinea.

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