MELBOURNE, Australia - Wang Xinyu ensured that her Australian Open debut would be one to remember after pipping Irina Falconi at the post to win their first qualifying round 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 in two hours and 32 minutes.
The 18-year-old was the girls' doubles champion here in 2018, partnering Liang En-Shuo, and is fresh off stretching former World No.1 Garbiñe Muguruza to three sets in Shenzhen last week. Falconi, the former World No.63 playing just the sixth tournament of a comeback following a 12-month hiatus from the sport due to burnout, has already posted a semifinal showing in November's Houston 125K, and her consistent, speedy game posed a real challenge to Wang's power. The Chinese player was undone by 25 unforced errors in the first set, and though she ironed them out to capture 10 of the next 13 games to take the second set and a 4-1 lead in the decider, Falconi's fighting spirit ensured a thrilling climax to the stylistic contrast.
Though the American would fail to serve the match out at 6-5, having roared back to break Wang twice, the 29-year-old maintained a steady lead throughout much of the super-tiebreak, taking advantage of Wang's loose errors to keep her nose in front all the way to 8-6. But the teenager would come up with her best tennis when it mattered most, suddenly reeling off the final four points in a row - the last two with spectacular forehand winners to take her overall tally to 47. Wang will next face another American, No.28 seed Allie Kiick, who moved past Hungary's Reka-Luca Jani 7-5, 6-3.
Only six matches would be completed on Day Two of qualifying: play was delayed at the start of the day due to air quality concerns and truncated at the end after a storm hit Melbourne. A battle of former Top 50 players found Japanese No.27 seed Kurumi Nara progressing when Jana Cepelova retired trailing 6-4, 3-0, and will now face the USA's Danielle Lao, who overcame Paraguayan former World No.73 Veronica Cepede Royg 6-2, 7-6(4), overturning a 3-5 second-set deficit in the process.
Also mounting a comeback was Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove: the Dutchwoman, who ended 2019 on a 10-match winning streak after winning back-to-back ITF W25 titles in Hua Hin, defeated 20-year-old Spanish Grand Slam debutante Eva Guerrero Alvarez 6-1, 7-6(5) after being 2-5 down in the second set. Pattinama Kerkhove will now face No.32 seed Barbara Haas after the Austrian overcame former World No.71 Kristina Kucova 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in two hours and 18 minutes.