Knowsley’s Eliza Long will play one of the biggest matches of her tennis career today after earning a place in the main draw of the Traralgon International.
Long, 17, won three qualifying matches to gain entry into the US$25,000 Pro Circuit tournament and will take on Ashley Keir, who is ranked 25th in Australia, in the first round.
“This has been one of my goals this year to be able to qualify into a Pro Tour and I wasn’t sure if I could actually do it… it’s quite surprising,” Long said.
The reigning under-16 national girls’ champion had to dig deep in her final qualifying match to defeat number four seed Tyra Calderwood 6-4 5-7 6-3 yesterday.
“There was a little bit of frustration because I had some opportunities to get that second set,” she said.
“So while I was sitting down I was trying to just calm down a bit and tell myself that it was still only a set all and I still had the match in my hands.
“She was quite a crafty player, she played a lot of slices and top-spin lobs so I had to keep attacking to win it.”
Long won a money tournament in Bendigo last month, but savoured yesterday’s win as something special.
“It’s been a while since I had a good win like this. When there’s a fair while when you haven’t played too well it means a lot when you actually get one,” Long said.
Ranked 49th in Australia, Long won two matches on Sunday to set up yesterday’s final round qualifier.
Long battered Maya Milosevic 6-3 6-1 in the first round, before overcoming an early challenge from Monika Rajicic to win 7-5 6-1.
The Spring Gully Bigpond star’s national ranking should improve following yesterday’s win, as should her chances of receiving a wildcard into the main draw of the William Loud Bendigo International, beginning Tuesday.
The Bendigo Tennis Association has been lobbying Tennis Australia for Long to get direct entry into her hometown event.
Meanwhile, the BTA has attracted 40 more players than last year for its junior ranking tournament beginning on finals weekend of the Bendigo International.
BTA executive officer Leon Retallick said the 190-player tournament and more than 1000 schoolchildren attending the Pro Circuit event would add to the atmosphere at the Nolan Street courts.
“Running along our finals we’ve been trying to get more engagement around the tournament this year,” he said.
“As well as the Pro Circuit finals we’ll have probably 26 courts of junior ranking tournaments just going ballistic, so the joint will just be absolutely rocking.”
Nineteen Bendigo players have entered the event, with most of the other players coming from the metropolitan, Shepparton, Traralgon and Warrnambool regions.