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AO qualifying: Vandeweghe targeting top 100 return

  • Matt Trollope

Former top-10 star Coco Vandeweghe got her Australian Open 2023 qualifying campaign underway with a gritty victory over Australia’s Arina Rodionova. 

Vandeweghe needed five match points to subdue Rodionova, eventually winning 6-4 7-6(8) to set up a second-round qualifying match-up with Petra Marcinko, last year’s AO girls’ singles champion.

Also progressing were 21st seed Elizabeth Mandlik – daughter of four-time major champion Hana Mandlikova – and Mandlik’s fellow American Ashlyn Krueger, who stopped former world No.5 Eugenie Bouchard in three sets. 

Seeds Laura Pigossi, Elena-Gabriela Ruse, Leolia Jeanjean and Clara Burel, and another AO junior champion in Victoria Jiminez Kasintseva, were other winners, as were Australians Destanee Aiava and Zoe Hives.

Hives – who beat Harmony Tan – and Aiava were among seven Australian victors on Monday, with Aleksandar VukicMax Purcell, Alex Bolt, Dane Sweeny and Adam Walton advancing in the men’s qualifying event.

RESULTS: AO qualifying Day 1

DRAW: Australian Open 2023 men's qualifying

DRAW: Australian Open 2023 women's qualifying

No.1 seed Alejandro Tabilo began his tournament with a dominant 6-0 6-2 win over Serbia’s Nikola Milojevic, while Brandon Holt – son of American champion Tracy Austin – upset third seed Radu Albot in three sets. 

Joining them in the second round were Hugo Gaston, Elias Ymer and Zizou Bergs

Yet few players competing at Melbourne Park on Monday have scaled the heights attained by Vandeweghe, an Australian and US Open semifinalist in 2017. 

The 31-year-old American continues to work her way back from a succession of demoralising injuries, and took another meaningful step against Rodionova.

"It's just sticking with it; it's nerves out there,” she told

“I've been playing professionally for god knows how many years, it's still difficult to close out a first-round match.”

Vandeweghe returned to the game in 2019 ranked in the 600s, but has risen to world No.140, last year winning her first title, at the WTA 125K event in Concorde, in more than six years.

"It's hard to say happy (with my progress) because when I was knocked out of the game I was No.9 in the world. And I wanna be back in the top 10 and contending for Slams, and all that stuff,” she said. 

“But what I'm honestly the most happy about is I'm able to compete again. I never thought I'd be able to compete, with my foot injury that I sustained in 2018. I had no ability to walk; I had CRPS, which is a neurological issue, and along with stress fractures. Basically a broken foot.

“And then I blew off my finger during COVID. So thing after thing, and I was just like, when is it gonna stop? 

"To come back, definitely making top 100 is a huge goal. And finishing the year healthy. That's probably the No.1 goal. But top 100 would be great.”

Vandeweghe beat Bouchard, Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza en route to the AO semifinals six years ago, where she stretched Venus Williams to three sets in a compelling contest.

Given her recent struggles, she approaches her career with a new outlook, yet can always draw confidence from that sparkling run in 2017.

"I would definitely say that I (had a) me-against-the-world kind of feeling when I was top 10 in the world, contending for Slams, beating legends of the game and also losing to legends of the game,” she said. 

RELATED: Players to watch in AO 2023 qualifying

“Just having those opportunities that you take for granted when you're successful and young and healthy, and then when that gets taken away in an instance, you realise, like, who am I? Why am I doing this? Can I ever do this again? 

“I started from such a ground zero that it was just, like, first thing was just walking of my own accord, and having that as a successful moment. 

“When you go from being an active professional athlete to having a small goal of like, let's just walk, is quite humbling.

"(But) I've been here before, I've seen the big stadiums, I've been on there at important moments... It's definitely something to have in your back pocket if you've done it before.”