Kostyuk back in Melbourne Park groove

  • Alex Sharp

Twelve months on from her scintillating run to the Australian Open third round, Marta Kostyuk fought off the nerves to navigate past Jana Cepelova 6-3 7-5 to ignite her 2019 qualifying campaign.

The world No.116 struck some sensational shots to overpower the injured Slovakian in the 60-minute encounter, courtesy of 21 winners and an impressive 19 from 24 success rate at the net.

The 16-year-old was one of the most memorable stories of the Australian Open 2018, and admitted the pressure to replicate that run has been on her mind in the build up at Melbourne Park.

“I feel it wasn’t my best match, I’m happy I got through this because I’ve never felt so nervous before a match,” said the Ukrainian teenager. 

“Never in my life, I’ll tell you this secret, that when I was walking onto the court I thought I was going to cry because I was so nervous. I’ve also been going through a lot in the past year.”

Kostyuk stormed into a 3-0 lead to dominate the opening set, but at 5-3 in the second she failed to serve out the match.

“I felt so sorry for her because I knew she was injured before the match,“ said Kostyuk, who was also struggling physically on the launch up to the serve.

“It’s quite tough to play an injured opponent, it relaxes you a bit too much in the rally, but also you get tight knowing you should win.”

Managing to clinch the win in straight sets, without finding her rhythm on court, has given Kostyuk a confidence boost ahead of a second round contest with France’s Amandine Hesse.

“Yes of course it helps, but I knew she was injured so I can’t celebrate too much. Let’s see,” added Kostyuk, hoping to feed off the positive feelings felt by returning to Melbourne Park.

“It was so special when I came here the first day practice, I thought ‘Oh my god all these memories are so good.’

“Without the wildcard it means I have to go through this experience by myself again and I’m happy I have the chance. I’ve done it before.”

Meanwhile, Australian Isabelle Wallace took advantage of her wildcard with a mightily impressive 7-6(5) 7-5 win against former Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki.

The German 29-year-old, who reached the fourth round at Melbourne Park back in 2012, but was undone by the consistency and brave striking of world No.406 Wallace.

Fellow Aussie Lizette Cabrera dismantled 31st seed Georgina Garcia Perez 6-0 6-2 in just 45 minutes to book a second-round clash with world No.158 Ysaline Bonaventure.

Youth Olympics champion Kaja Juvan carried her momentum from a stellar 2018 season in the junior ranks to send 17th seed Yanina Wickmayer out 4-6 6-4 7-5 in a two-hour tussle.