Eliza Long’s mental toughness helped her claim a fighting victory on her Pro Circuit singles debut at the Traralgon International yesterday.
The 17-year-old edged-out Ashley Keir 7-6 (9-7) 7-5 to setup a second round clash with eighth seed Sally Peers.
“It’s pretty unreal to be honest,” Long said.
“She was my first match I played in the 18s nationals when I qualified for that. I thought I was playing well then… but I managed to beat her this time.”
The Catholic College Bendigo student admitted her emotions were “out on my sleeve”, but she managed to keep enough control to win the up and down contest.
Long started brilliantly to open a 4-1 lead in the first set as 18-year-old Keir seemed to battle nerves.
“I should have played solid then because she was a bit frazzled, but I went for too much and let her back in then got 6-5 down and down a break,” Long said.
“Then I picked up again, broke her serve then had a really close tie-break.”
Keir got the jump to lead 5-2 in the second set, but Long showed the benefit of her intensive recent fitness program to reel-off the final five games unanswered.
“The last time I played her I had a game plan against her, but it ended up being the wrong game plan completely. My plan was to move her around but she had really good movement so I was way off,” Long said.
“This time I was a bit stronger, a bit fitter and I was able to match it up with her big shots.”
Long, who plays for Spring Gully Bigpond in the Bendigo Tennis Association, is quickly developing a love-affair with the Traralgon International.
Yesterday was her fourth consecutive victory after she won three qualifying matches to get into the main draw.
With her confidence sky-high, the reigning national under-16 champion believes she’s capable of causing an upset against the experienced Peers, who is ranked 12th in Australia.
“I’m pretty confident with how I’m playing and I still think she’s not one of the better players that’s still in, so I might have a chance, I don’t know,”
“I’ll give it my best shot, that’s for sure.”
A likely showdown with number one seed Olivia Rogowska looms for the winner.
Long earned her first world ranking points with yesterday’s win, which may help her with wildcards and seedings at other Pro Circuit events.
Her Australian ranking of 49 should also climb, along with her chances of a wildcard spot in next week’s William Loud Bendigo International.