In a week where Australia’s best female tennis player succumbed to her mental demons, Knowsley’s Eliza Long has fought back from the brink to win a place in the main draw of the Junior Australian Open.
Long’s desire to return to Melbourne Park helped her overcome the 11th qualifying seed – Kyoka Okamura from Japan – 6-3 3-6 7-5 at Traralgon.
Long, who received a wildcard into qualifying, led the second set 3-1, but tightened up and lost the next seven games.
However, the 17-year-old showed maturity and gritty determination to regain the momentum and seal a spot in the girls’ main draw.
“It was a fair battle, I was close to not being here and there was only a few points in it,” said Long, who defeated number six seed Alice Matteucci in her first qualifying match on Wednesday.
“I played some of my best tennis against the sixth seed the previous day and I was continuing that form in the first set.
“In the middle of the second set I was up 3-1. Then I started making a few errors and she started coming back. It got to three-all and I got really nervous because I obviously really wanted to win that match.
“I started thinking too much about losing, I got a bit flustered and was a bit all over the place mentally.
“I ended up losing that set and was 2-0 down in the third set and things really weren’t looking good.
“I just put my head in the towel and started to take a few deep breaths because I wasn’t calm at all, I was flustered that whole time – I just had to calm myself down.”
Because she had to win her way into the main draw, Long feels more confident heading into tomorrow’s match against Hong Kong’s Katherine Ip than she did before her debut last year.
Long was handed a wildcard into last year’s event as the reigning national under-16 champion.
“In some ways I’m feeling better than I was last year because I had a wildcard, whereas this year I’ve got a few matches under my belt,” the Spring Gully Bigpond star said.
“I’m really excited I get a second chance. For most of the year I thought that was going to be my only opportunity,” Long said of being back at Melbourne Park.