Australian No.1 Arina Rodionova has made tennis history by becoming the oldest woman to make it for the first time into the world’s top-100.
The 34-year-old veteran roared to this welcome new landmark when she battled back to beat Chinese prospect Bai Zhuoxuan 3-6 6-1 6-0 in the Thailand Open in Hua Hin on Thursday night to book a quarter-final spot.
The victory will ensure that next Monday when the next WTA rankings are announced, she will crack the top 100 at the age of 34 years and 52 days, continuing the Melburnian’s amazing late-career rise, which has been fuelled by indignation.
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She has finally broken through the barrier after a professional career which began 20 years ago in Russia.
“Never give up, I guess?” Rodionova celebrated on Friday, joking that “everyone’s invited” to her debut party.
Rodionova revealed at the recent Australian Open, where she had to play qualifiers and was denied a wildcard by Tennis Australia despite being the nation’s No.1-ranked female player, that she felt she was suffering a personal vendetta at the hands of the governing body.
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“The only regrets I have from today is just I gave Tennis Australia something to celebrate,” Rodionova had said defiantly after her first-round qualifying loss in Melbourne.
“I think they are very pleased with my result today and that’s what makes me upset.”
But in her first competition since then, the Russian-born player, who won seven lower-level ITF singles titles in 2023 in a breakthrough year after recovering from a serious wrist injury, has given the authorities further food for thought by now becoming the only Australian woman to feature in the top-100.
Currently ranked at 101, her run in Hua Hin will elevate her, provisionally, to No.96 when the new rankings come out. It’s an outstanding rise for a player who, even at the start of 2023, was ranked only 302nd.
If she was to win the tournament, Rodionova could shoot up to the verge of the top-70.
The next-best ranked Australian is Kim Birrell, at No.124
By roaring back to win the last 11 games on the trot to thrash 21-year-old Bai, Rodionova has now booked her spot in just the second tour-level quarter-final of her career. The last time she got to the last-eight was in Nanchang, China, seven years ago.
After knocking out two Chinese players already on her run, Rodionova will now have to get past a third, second seed Zhu Lin, on Friday.
The world No.45 Zhu ensured there would be three Chinese players in the quarters as she defeated Linda Fruhvirtova 6-2 6-2.
American Katie Volynets reached her second WTA quarter-final by beating German No.4 seed and former Wimbledon semi-finalist Tatjana Maria 5-7 6-2 6-2 after a two -hour 47-minute tussle.
Friday promises to be a busy day for Rodionova as she also features in the doubles semi-final alongside Chinese partner Yuan Yue, who she beat in the first round of the singles.