Sweet 16: Australian Open Women’s Singles Field Filled In

Kaja Juvan (photo: Jorge Ferrari/Tennis Australia)

WASHINGTON, January 13, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

After four days of at times intense battles in Dubai, the sixteen qualifying spots for next month’s Australian Open women’s singles competition have been determined. Each who has advanced to the year’s first Grand Slam have won three qualifying draw matches.

Some of the names of the players going to Melbourne have a familiar ring to them for fans who regularly follow the WTA Tour: Timea Babos of Hungary, Greet Minnen of Belgium, Kaja Juvan of Slovenia, Sara Errani of Italy and Tsvetana Pironkova from Bulgaria. There’s also one American, 2017 Roland Garros junior girls’ champion Whitney Osuigwe, and Egyptian Mayer Sherif moved into her second Grand Slam main draw, after making history at last year’s French Open for becoming the first woman from Egypt to compete in the main draw of a Grand Slam.

• No. 1 seed Kaja Juvan, ranked No. 104, won her third-round qualifying match over Slovakia’s Rebecca Sramkova, 6-1, 6-2, facing no break points and needing just 51 minutes to advance. Juvan has now achieved a career Grand Slam, adding a berth in the Australian Open to go with previous main draw appearances at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open.

“I think I’ve always been good dealing with these last-round matches; it’s not my first qualifying,” Juvan said. “I always just try to focus on the things I need to do, and today I was doing it pretty well. I think that a lot of things that we’re working on really showed, and I’m happy that i was able to go through it.”

• No. 7 seed Timea Babos came from behind to beat No. 20 seed Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-2, in two hours and 30 minutes. She will play both singles and doubles in Melbourne, teamed with Kristina Mladenovic of France as one of the top seeded teams in the draw.

“I was [in Dubai] pretty much all December,” Babos said after her victory. “I prepared very well, and I really wanted to play well here and qualify. So, I guess the effort paid off. That’s just something extra and it gives me even more motivation for the future.”

Tsvetana Pironkova advanced with a 6-3, 7-5 victory over former Top 50 player Margarita Gasparyan of Russia. Since returning from maternity leave last year, Pironkova has reached three consecutive Grand Slam main draws.

“I’m very happy,” Pironkova said. “Now that I think about it, I’ve only played Grand Slams since I’ve returned, three in a row. That’s extra motivation for me, because I really love the Grand Slam tournaments, and I’m so happy to be here.”

• No. 3 seed Greet Minnen qualified for the Australian Open main draw for the second year in a row. She beat former Top 20 player Varvara Lepchenko of the United States, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.

• No. 17 seed Sara Errani, who reached the finals at Roland Garros in 2012, is going to Melbourne. She defeated former Top 20 player and wild card entry Ana Conju  of Croatia, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

• No. 16 seed Mayar Sherif triumphed over former Top 50 player Alessandra Krunic of Serbia, 6-1, 6-2, to qualify for her first Australian Open.

Whitney Osuigwe of the United States became the last qualifier after she rallied from the brink of elimination to pull off a 2-6, 7-6 (1), 6-2 win over former Top 20 player Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania.

Wednesday’s complete results