Brisbane, Australia, 9 April 2024 | Dan Imhoff

Pat Rafter Arena instantly evokes triumphant memories for Arina Rodionova upon her return to Brisbane for this week’s Billie Jean King Cup Qualifier tie against Mexico.

In January, in her Brisbane International main-draw debut, the 34-year-old enjoyed a stunning run when she claimed her first top-50 win in almost four years over Martina Trevisan before her upset of former Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin.

Her defeat to teenager Mirra Andreeva in the round of 16 was played on an outside court, which kept her flawless singles record on the court intact.

“It’s only been two or three months. I love this court, I’ve played well on this court and such a good feeling to be back,” Rodionova said. “Hopefully everyone will be back. I think it was full house for Brisbane International.”

> READ: Tennis in the spotlight ahead of Billie Jean King Cup tie

A month after her run, Rodionova became the oldest woman to crack the top 100.

It was the ultimate reward for persevering when many before her would have hung up the racquets for good after suffering a career-threatening wrist injury in 2022.

Rodionova instead pulled off a remarkable return, capturing seven ITF titles last year to finish the with an impressive 76-21 win-loss record at that level for the season.

“I was playing pretty small tournaments where no one is watching, and I was on my own so it was kind of a tough year, but I was really excited to do that after I was out with the injury for eight months,” she said.

“I think I was excited to be playing tennis again. It’s something you can never take for granted because one day in 2022, I think four days before Wimbledon, I broke my wrist and I didn’t know if I’ll ever play tennis again, so once I started it was pretty special to be on the court every time.

“I really appreciated every match that I played and I played a lot of those last year, so I just kept having fun and just kept fighting. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if you’re playing on this beautiful court or you’re playing somewhere in Portugal where no one is watching, the game is still the same and yeah, I still enjoy it.”

> READ: Emerging leaders excited to attend Billie Jean King Cup Qualifier in Brisbane 

Seven years since she was last part of Australia’s Billie Jean King Cup team, Rodionova has spent much of her time plugging away at ITF events with occasional tour-level appearances.

While selected as part of the team for the tie against Ukraine in 2017, she did not play.

However, she played in two ties in 2016. She fell in a three-hour battle in the opening singles rubber against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova against Slovakia in the World Group II Play-off.

Later that year she and Daria Saville lost a dead doubles rubber to Americans Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Coco Vandeweghe in the World Group Play-offs.

Even a year ago, the Rio 2016 Olympian had every reason to think her days donning the green and gold may have passed.

“It’s a great feeling and it’s not many people can say that they’ve done it in their life,” she said. “I’m really honoured. It’s also just great being part of the team.

“We don’t get to do it often on tour. It’s a pretty lonely sport. It makes it even more special and obviously the girls, the team is super nice, we’re having dinners every day.

“Everyone’s enjoying spending time together. It’s different and I think we’re all really enjoying this.”

Should she be called upon to take the court in singles or doubles, a resurgent Rodionova has every reason to back herself having never been beaten on the main arena.

“Oh honestly, I’m not too fussed about playing myself necessarily. I’m just happy to be a part of the team and whatever I can do if it’s on court it’s great, if it’s off court it’s also great,” she said. “I’m happy to do whatever – singles, doubles, bringing waters, like, it doesn’t really matter as long as the end result is a positive one.”

The two-day Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge Qualifier tie, which sees Australia take on Mexico, begins on Friday 12 April.

Tickets are on sale through Ticketmaster, with adult prices starting at $20, concessions from $16, kids from $5 and family passes (two adults and two children) starting at $45.

> BUY NOW: Billie Jean King Cup tickets

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