Toowoomba QLD, Australia, 3 October 2017 | David Packman

American college graduate (University of Georgia) Ellen Perez has arrived on home soil for the Australian Pro Tour with a near career-high ranking and nothing to lose.

“I’ve definitely taken a different pathway,” Perez, 21, said from the Hutchinson Builders Toowoomba International on Tuesday. “So I’m just coming in as an underdog with nothing to defend and nothing to prove.

“It’s just nice to be back and competing against some of the Australian girls.”

Perez initially came onto the radar after stunning the likes of Arina Rodionova and Ashleigh Barty to claim a wildcard into the US Open in 2016.

“To get that opportunity was surreal,” she said. “It definitely helped me in my tennis moving forward.”

Now sitting just inside the top 400, Perez reached world No. 361 in August this year after reaching an ITF $25,000 semifinal in Auburn, Alabama, and then qualifying to reach the final in Gatineau, Canada.

“I’m coming off a great summer in America and Canada,” she said. “So things are definitely looking up.

“My form is going pretty well and I’m just looking forward to getting started here in Toowoomba.”

Perez initially meets wildcard Gabriella Da Silva Fick before potentially facing the winner of qualifier Tina Nadine Smith and Alison Bai.

We’re both based in Melbourne now,” Perez said of Da Silva Fick. “So we know each other a little bit.”

Should she progress further, Perez will run into a flurry of Japanese talent, including second seed Eri Hozumi, Ayano Shimizu (No.4), Yuuki Tanaka (No.7) or Mai Minokoshi (No.8).

Amongst that group also sits Sara Tomic, who is beginning to look dangerous after making a semifinal appearance last week in Brisbane.

American top seed Asia Muhammad will open her Toowoomba campaign against German Julia Wachaczyk, while the highest Australian seed, Olivia Rogowska (No.3), faces Naiktha Bains. Should Rogowska prevail, she may find herself up against recent Brisbane winner Kimberley Birrell in a rematch of last week’s semifinal.

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