Hives’ Australian Open dream alive as she gets her year off to the perfect start

The victory is a huge boost for the Australian Open hopeful, who is a reserve for this week’s Open qualifiers.

Hives defeated a number of higher ranked players to win the $25,000 tournament and in turn reach a career-high ranking just outside the WTA top 300.

Hives defeated fellow Australian Alexandra Bozovic in three sets in the final – 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (4).

In a demanding clash, which followed matches in 40-degree heat on Saturday, Hives fought hard and was particularly pleased with her mental strength.

After not taking advantage of three match points in the second set, the deciding set went to a tie-break – Hives again setting up four match points, this time she only needed two.

Hives felt she still has another gear or two to go in terms of her performance, looking to be more aggressive, particularly on the big points.

“I can play better (but) mentally, I got through this week really well,” Hives said.

“Mentally I just stuck tough.

“I couldn’t asked for a better start (to the year), I just wanted to play this tournament to get some experience against the better girls – a lot of them will play the AO qualifiers – I didn’t think I’d end up winning it.

“I got a lot of confidence (out of the tournament) because I beat a few good girls to get to the final.

“Just staying more aggressive all the time. I played a little bit safe on the match points.”

Hives has already got a wildcard for the doubles’ main draw, but she will now sit and wait in the hope she will receive a call-up to the qualifiers, which start on Thursday.

If a player withdraws from injury Hives will get her opportunity.

The 21-year-old, who will play doubles with Canberra’s Alison Bai, said it was nice to know she already had an event guaranteed at Melbourne Park, but making the singles main draw is the ultimate goal.

“It’s great to know that I’ll be playing in it (Australian Open) no matter what happens.”

After a successful return from an injury-riddled 2016, Hives is pumped to have been consistently on the court for the past year.

Now that she has put her injury woes behind her, breaking into the top 300 is high on the agenda, something that looks very achievable given she does not have any points to defend over the next two months.

The Courier, January 8, 2018 | Daniel Short

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