Hives relishing Playford wildcard

Fresh on the heels of receiving a doubles wildcard to Australian Open 2018 with partner Alison Bai, Victorian Zoe Hives has her eye equally on singles this week at the City of Playford Tennis international.

“We’re both super excited,” Hives, 21, said of her upcoming maiden Grand Slam. “We still haven’t really played that much together so it will be nice to get some matches in here.

“Obviously, I still want to go as well as I can in singles, but I guess it’s a pretty equal priority now. I feel good, I’m ready for it all.”

Hives faces unseeded Junri Namigata of Japan in the opening round and should be successful will likely meet Turkish fourth seed Basak Eraydin after that.

“It’s such a strong tournament and just to play a higher-ranked player will be a great experience. I haven’t played that many at this level so I’m really looking forward to it,” said Hives, the world No.378.

On Monday, Bai also sealed a place in the main draw after winning her way through qualifying. She was joined by countrywomen Belinda Woolcock and Alexandra Bozovic who also posted strong wins.

Bai has drawn second-seeded Swiss Jill Teichmann.

Top seed Lin Zhu of China faces a challenging first round against Romania’s Alexandra Dulgheru, a former world No.26, and her week won’t get any easier, with former world No.2 Vera Zvonareva, who has recently returned from two years away from game – spent getting married, having a child and earning a Master’s degree – potentially waiting in the wings.

Zvonareva opens her campaign against Japanese qualifier Misa Eguchi.

Laura Robson will also make her Playford debut when she takes on Turk Ipek Soylu. The Melbourne-born Brit continues to rebuild after long absences from the game.

Meanwhile, Hives’ schedule between now and the year’s first grand Slam at Melbourne Park is yet to firm up. “I will wait to see if any opportunities arise for Hobart or Sydney, but otherwise Alison and I will just keep practicing and get more work in together,” she said.

Playford, Cowell SA, Australia, 1 January 2018 | David Packman

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