Melbourne, Australia, 9 January 2024 | Leigh Rogers

Five months ago, Ivana Popovic was unranked and unsure what her future might hold.

The 23-year-old from Sydney had spent a year on the sidelines after suffering a serious knee injury and admitted she “was scared” as she plotted her competitive return.

However, her resilience was rewarded today when she recorded a first Grand Slam win.

Popovic triumphed 6-3 6-2 against Croatian Tena Lukas, a player ranked more than 300 places higher, in the opening round of the Australian Open 2024 women’s qualifying singles competition.

The Aussie wildcard produced an impressive performance, striking 20 winners and conceding a mere eight points on serve.

“I’m just over the moon,” Popovic said after winning in 74 minutes.

“Getting here is a testimony to myself, that I knew I could do it and I didn’t fall along those fearful moments. I kept going forward.

“It’s been a really, really tough journey. I think any injury is really bad, but tearing your ACL is something where you know your fate. You know it’s going to be 12 months out, so you have to make your peace with it.”

The world No.545 credits her family support as being crucial during her recovery, so was thrilled they were courtside today at Melbourne Park to share in her major breakthrough.

“It feels even sweeter,” she beamed.

This is Popovic’s biggest win, ranking wise, since January 2020 and sets up a second-round clash with world No.118 Anna Bondar. The 26-year-old Hungarian is the No.11 seed in the qualifying draw.

“I’ve always looked at myself as having the talent and all the characteristics that I need to get there,” Popovic said of competing on the Grand Slam stage.

“It’s just showing to myself that I can do it. Being amongst the world’s best players and being able to compete, that’s where any tennis player wants to be.”

Popovic is the third Australian woman to record a first Grand Slam victory today, following earlier victories for fellow wildcards Talia Gibson and Melisa Ercan.

> READ: Aussie teens record major breakthroughs in Australian Open qualifying

Destanee Aiava, Astra Sharma and Priscilla Hon all scored first-round wins too, however seventh seed Arina Rodionova bowed out.

Tickets to attend Australian Open qualifying are just $5 for kids and $10 for adults. Fans will also be able to see some of the world’s top-ranked players compete in practice matches at Melbourne Park.

> BUY NOW: Australian Open 2024 tickets

Aussies in action – Australian Open

Women’s qualifying singles, first round
[16] Astra Sharma (AUS) d Francisca Jorge (POR) 6-7(3) 6-3 6-3
Priscilla Hon (AUS)
 d [WC] Emerson Jones (AUS) 6-2 7-5
Destanee Aiava (AUS) d Chloe Paquet (FRA) 6-3 7-6(5)
[WC] Talia Gibson (AUS) d Andreea Mitu (ROU) 6-3 1-6 6-2
[WC] Melisa Ercan (AUS) d Yuriko Miyazaki (GBR) 6-4 7-6(5)
[WC] Ivana Popovic (AUS) d Tena Lukas (CRO) 6-3 6-2
[2] Renata Zarazua (MEX) d Jaimee Fourlis (AUS) 6-4 6-3
[6] Erika Andreeva d [WC] Kaylah McPhee (AUS) 6-1 6-2
[10] Brenda Fruhvirtova (CZE) d [WC] Petra Hule (AUS) 6-4 6-4
Leolia Jeanjean (FRA) d [7] Arina Rodionova (AUS) 6-3 6-4

Women’s qualifying singles, first round
Storm Hunter (AUS) v Kaia Kanepi (EST)
[WC] Maddison Inglis (AUS) v [14] Nuria Parrizas Diaz (ESP)
[WC] Seone Mendez (AUS) v [19] Hailey Baptiste (USA)
[WC] Maya Joint (AUS) v Natalija Stevanovic (SRB)

Women’s qualifying singles, second round
[16] Astra Sharma (AUS) v Maria Timofeeva
Priscilla Hon (AUS)
 v [29] Dalma Galfi (HUN)
Destanee Aiava (AUS) v [20] Jil Teichmann (SUI)
[WC] Talia Gibson (AUS) v [10] Brenda Fruhvirtova (CZE)
[WC] Ivana Popovic (AUS) v [11] Anna Bondar (HUN)
[WC] Melisa Ercan (AUS) v Wei Sijia (CHN)

> VIEW: Full Australian Open 2023 women’s qualifying singles draw

Find your way to play: Visit to get out on court and have some fun!