Qualies Corner: Brown, Pironkova close in on Melbourne main draw

Qualies Corner: Brown, Pironkova close in on Melbourne main draw

Fan favorites Dustin Brown and Tsvetana Pironkova were victorious in their respective Australian Open qualifying matches; resurgent stars Bernard Tomic and Ana Konjuh also advanced.

The second round of Australian Open qualifying was in full swing on Tuesday, as all of the winners from the first two days of action did battle as the fields each narrowed to 32 players.

On the men’s side, perennial crowd favorite Dustin Brown upset No. 22 seed Carlos Taberner, 6-3, 7-5, in Doha, putting himself one win away from his first Australian Open main draw appearance since 2018. Most known for his audacious trick shots and stunning Wimbledon win over Rafael Nadal, the German-Jamaican veteran has struggled for consistency in recent years, currently ranked No. 261—well off his career-high of No. 64.

Standing between him and the main draw is American Maxime Cressy, who rallied from a set down to defeat Brown’s compatriot Yannick Madden, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Bernard Tomic has been similarly entertaining at his best, and survived a final-set tie-break to knock out fellow Aussie Tristan Schoolkate, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6, winning the extended tie-break, 10-3.

Tomic last won a Grand Slam main draw match at the 2018 Wimbledon Championships, and will need to defeat another Aussie in John-Patrick Smith to make it through qualifying this week.

Meanwhile, in Dubai...

Top seed Kaja Juvan continued her march towards the main draw, easing past Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina, 6-2, 6-4. Kalinina took a set from Elise Mertens at the Upper Austria Ladies Linz last fall, but was no match for Juvan’s consistency as the 20-year-old Slovenian booked a final round qualifying clash with big-hitting Slovak Rebecca Sramkova.

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In a battle of comeback kids, Tsvetana Pironkova and Margarita Gasparyan will do battle for a spot in the Australian Open draw. Pironkova, seeded No. 21 after returning to tennis as a mother last summer and reaching the U.S. Open quarterfinals, shook off a second set hiccup to advance over South Korea’s Han Na-Lae, 6-0, 3-6, 6-1.

Gasparyan, a former world No. 41, was more efficient against Mariam Bolkvadze, defeating the Georgian in straight sets, 6-3, 7-6(3).

Inspirational stories abound in the women’s draw, as former Top 20 star and 2016 U.S. Open quarterfinalist Ana Konjuh is one win from returning to the Grand Slam spotlight after a 6-4, 6-2 win over Cagla Buyukakcay of Turkey.

Konjuh, who won the Australian Open and U.S. Open junior titles in 2013, has dealt with an inordinate number of injuries in her pro career, requiring four elbow surgeries that have sidelined her for the last 18 months.

Her road won’t get easier in the next round as she faces former French Open finalist Sara Errani; the Italian veteran outlasted Georgina Garcia Perez, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 for her second three-set win in a row.

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The Best of the Rest

Former world No. 12 Viktor Troicki kept a main draw return within reach with a 7-5, 6-3 win over American Ulises Blanch, and will take on No. 11 seed Cedrik-Marcel Stebe on Wedndesday after the German ousted Aussie Rinky Hijikata, 6-4, 6-2.

Backing up his win over No. 6 seed Thiago Seyboth Wild, Dutch veteran Robin Haase made it into the final round after defeating Italian Gian Marco Moroni, 6-4, 7-5, securing an encounter with Quentin Halys on Wednesday.

Eugenie Bouchard couldn’t back up her solid win on Monday and bowed out of qualifying to China’s Yuan Yue. The Canadian has played just one Grand Slam main draw since 2019, falling in the final round of qualifying at last year’s Australian Open.

American Whitney Osuigwe was able to maintain her momentum with a 6-2, 6-4 win against Olivia Gadecki. At just 18 years old, Osuigwe is aiming for just her third major main draw appearance, and first since 2019.