Brisbane, Australia, 2 January 2024 | Leigh Rogers

At age 34, Arina Rodionova is in career-best form.

The Melburnian recorded an incredible 79 match wins during 2023 and collected seven ITF singles titles to soar to a career-high ranking of world No.112.

It followed an eight-month lay-off with a wrist injury, which meant she began the 2023 season ranked outside the world’s top 300.

“I think I surprised a lot of people,” Rodionova said of her impressive resurgence.

“I surprised myself more than anyone. I’m just playing really good.”

Rodionova is currently the top-ranked Australian woman, an honour she is proudly carrying this summer.

“It’s a great addition to everything I’ve done (in 2023),” Rodionova said. “I won like 70-something matches, I played so much, have career-best ranking.

“Aussie No.1. It wasn’t my goal, let’s say, for 2023, but it sounds pretty good to me.”

As Rodionova edges closer to the world’s top 100 in singles, there’s also an opportunity to create history. A top-100 breakthrough would make make her the oldest WTA player to achieve the feat.

“If I get there, I get there. If I don’t get there, I don’t get there. It’s not exactly my goal,” Rodionova said.

“We’ll take it one match at a time.”

The hard-working competitor’s response highlights the mindset that is driving her to sensational new heights.

“I just want to enjoy (playing),” Rodionova explained.

“Coming back from the injury (and) playing low-level tournaments, it’s not an easy lifestyle, let’s put it that way.

“It’s been a long and hard road to get back and I think I deserve to enjoy it a little bit.”

Rodionova proved that approach is working well in her opening-round match at this week’s Brisbane International.

The wildcard entry upset world No.42 Martina Trevisan to score her first top-50 win in almost four years.

“I honestly don’t remember the last time I enjoyed being on the court so much,” Rodionova beamed after her stellar performance at Pat Rafter Arena.

Her motivation to compete is reflected in her schedule, which encompassed 34 tournaments during 2023. She then travelled to India to play in the Tennis Premier League in December.

“I had like three days off, mostly because I was sick,” Rodionova said of her offseason.

“I played a lot of matches last year, (but) I think at this stage of my career it’s really kind of helping me right now. I feel great on court.

“I might have to take a break sometime, maybe like March or April? (But) right now I’m excited to play and I’m ready to go.”

Rodionova’s next challenge is a second-round clash in Brisbane against American Sofia Kenin, the Australian Open 2020 champion. They met at Pat Rafter Arena today.

“I have no expectations,” Rodionova said. “I’m not the favourite there. I think I’m in a pretty good place to be. (I) just will go out there and enjoy the match.”

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