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Hon, Birrell score qualifying wins on home soil

Australians Priscilla Hon and Kimberly Birrell notch impressive wins in the opening round of Sydney International qualifying – and will next face off for a spot in the main draw.
5 January 2019, by sydneyinternational.com.au

Priscilla Hon has discovered impressive form ahead of the upcoming Australian Open with a resounding win in the first round qualifying on Saturday in Sydney.

The Queenslander brushed aside 55th-ranked Serb Aleksandra Krunic 6-1 6-4 to set up a meeting with compatriot Kimberly Birrell, who stunned former world No.10 Kristina Mladenovic.

World No.283 Birrell trailed the Frenchwoman 4-1 in the final set before clawing her way to a 7-6(5) 3-6 7-6(8) win on her fifth match point over the world No.43.

The victory follows an impressive week in Brisbane for Birrell, who upset currently world No.10 Daria Kasatkina in three sets in the first round.

Hon, meanwhile, said she was looking to get matches under her belt before the year’s first Grand Slam event.

“It’s obviosuly pretty hot up here, so it’s tough for any European coming here, I’m sure – at least all the Aussies have been training in it for the last few weeks, so we feel better,” she said.

“But it was tough. Also there was a little windier here and there, so that made in more interesting as well (laughter).

“Obviously these are big tournaments and I’m getting an Aussie Open wildcard, so hopefully just get some matches before I play there.”

Also progressing to the final round of qualifying was 2017 Sydney International champion Johanna Konta, who beat 277th-ranked Czech Miriam Kolodziejova.

Konta, a former world No.4 but now ranked 37th, won 6-3 6-2 in just 69 minutes and will face Ekaterina Alexandrova for a place in the main draw.

> women’s qualifying draw

“I’m very happy to be here, I always am. I got to see my sister today,” the Australian-born Brit said.

“I think it was incredibly tough conditions out there, so I don’t think anybody can expect to play their best tennis. It’s incredibly hot and windy, it’s very challenging for everybody.

“I think it was just important to try and do the best that I can in the conditions. And I’m just happy I gave myself another chance to play.

“I just want to keep getting better within these challenges and I’d like to make it a full week here.”

Also advancing on Saturday in Sydney was qualifying No.2 seed Katerina Siniakova, who shut out Eri Hozumi for the loss of just five games.

Young guns Garin, Rublev advance

It was smooth progress for the bulk of the men’s seeds in qualifying on Saturday, with Andrey Rublev, Taro Daniel and Christian Garin all moving through in straight sets.

Garin, seeded eighth, beat Pedro Sousa of Portugal 6-3 6-3 to advance to the final round, where he meets No.3 seed Yoshihito Nishioka.

> men’s qualifying draw

“It was a pretty good match. It’s a really warm day so winning in two sets is important. Tomorrow I have another match, I want to recover for tomorrow,” he said.

“(Australia is) one of my favourite countries – I love to play here.”

Nishikori trailed Australian Jason Kubler before recovering to win 5-7 6-1 6-3.

Rublev, the second seed, was too strong for fellow Russian Evgeny Donskoy, winning 6-1 6-4 in 71 minutes, while No.4 seed Daniel ousted Lukas Rosol 6-4 7-5.

Daniel, of Japan, next faces American Reilly Opelka – who beat Pablo Andujar 6-1 7-5 – while Rublev takes on the winner of the match between fifth seed Guido Andreozzi and Australian wildcard Christopher O’Connell.