DUBAI, U.A.E. -- The 2021 Australian Open women's singles qualifiers have been determined after a fierce four-day qualifying event came to a close on Wednesday in Dubai, with 16 women booking their spots in the main draw of the year's first Grand Slam tournament.
No.7 seed Timea Babos was one of the fortunate players who battled their way into the main draw, as the Hungarian outlasted No.20 seed Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia, 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-2, in a clash between former Top 30 singles players.
"I was [in Dubai] pretty much all December," said Babos, following the hard-fought two-hour and 30-minute tilt. "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."
"I’m very happy that I did the job," said Babos, who is the fourth-ranked doubles player in the world and the defending Australian Open women's doubles champion with Kristina Mladenovic. "That’s what I came here for, to Dubai, to be able to also play the singles in Melbourne, so obviously I’m very happy and excited for that."
Qualified ✅— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 13, 2021
Well done, Kaja. pic.twitter.com/LAWe1qJw7l
No.1 seed Kaja Juvan of Slovenia also entered the Melbourne main draw, easing past Slovakia's Rebecca Sramkova, 6-1, 6-2, in just 51 minutes. 20-year-old Juvan will add to a Grand Slam main-draw résumé which has already seen her push Serena Williams to three sets in the second round of Wimbledon in 2019 and reach the same stage at Roland Garros and the US Open last season.
"I think I’ve always been good dealing with these last-round matches, it’s not my first qualifying," Juvan said, after a match where she never faced a break point. "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."
Tsvetana Pironkova was another winner on Wednesday, as the Bulgarian eased past former Top 50 player Margarita Gasparyan of Russia, 6-3, 7-5. Pironkova, whose best run at a major was reaching the 2010 Wimbledon semifinals, has now made three consecutive Grand Slam main draws since her return from maternity leave last year.
In her first professional tournament in over three years, Pironkova made a stunning run to the 2020 US Open quarterfinals, where she fell to Serena Williams in three sets. Pironkova followed up her US Open performance with a third-round showing at Roland Garros, and went from unranked in August to World No.136 by season's end.
"I’m very happy," Pironkova said, after her win. "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."
"I have a lot of things to work on in my game still, it’s the first matches for the season," Pironkova continued. "But I’m really happy that I was able to fight through all the matches, especially yesterday was a really, really tough match for me. Today also was kind of tricky, but I’m happy that I fought through."
2012 Roland Garros finalist Sara Errani of Italy also booked her ticket to Melbourne, as she overcame former Top 20 player Ana Konjuh of Croatia, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 in just over two hours.
"It’s a good opportunity to go there and play a good tournament," said former World No.5 Errani, who reached the Australian Open quarterfinals in 2012. "I love Australia, so I’m really happy to go there."
No.3 seed Greet Minnen of Belgium claimed a spot in the Australian Open main draw for the second straight year, outlasting former Top 20 player Varvara Lepchenko of the United States, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 in two hours and 18 minutes. Minnen made her Grand Slam main-draw debut in Melbourne last year, reaching the second round.
No.16 seed Mayar Sherif of Egypt also qualified, moving into her second straight Grand Slam main draw after a 6-1, 6-2 victory over former Top 50 player Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia. At last year's Roland Garros, Sherif became the first Egyptian woman ever to compete in the main draw of a Grand Slam, and will now make it two in a row.
In other matches, Whitney Osuigwe of the United States staged a comeback from 6-2, 5-2 down to defeat former Top 20 player Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania, 2-6, 7-6(1), 6-2, and Liudmila Samsonova of Russia ousted former Top 25 player Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine, 7-6(1), 6-2.
Canada's Rebecca Marino will also contest her first Grand Slam main draw since 2013, as the former Top 40 player defeated Belgium's Maryna Zanevska, 6-4, 7-6(9) on Wednesday. Marino made a successful return to competition this week after being inactive since July of 2019.
Wednesday's other victors who advanced to the Australian Open main draw are: Chloe Paquet and Clara Burel of France, Elisabetta Cocciaretto of Italy, Mayo Hibi of Japan, Valeria Savinykh of Russia, Francesca Jones of Great Britain, and Olga Danilovic of Serbia.
View all final-round results and stats at the Australian Open website here!