Tennis: Destanee Aiava wins opening Australian Open qualifying match

Destanee Aiava’s path back to the Australian Open after a series of mental health battles has taken a positive step forward with victory in the opening round of qualifying.

Given a wildcard into qualifying, Aiava, the world No.325, said she was keeping her expectations measured as she looked to earn a main-draw spot this week.

The 22-year-old, who opened up on her mental health struggles during 2022, which included an attempt to end her life, carved out a 6-3 6-3 victory against Turkey’s Ipek Oz in first-round action at Melbourne Park on Monday.

“I’m so happy. It’s my first grand slam match for a while and I’m just happy to get the win,” Aiava told Tennis Australia after defeating the world No.180.

“I didn’t put too much expectation on myself. I just wanted to go out and implement what I’ve been doing in training.”

Aiava, who has been ranked as high as world No.147, is starting to string together some solid form after her off-court issues.

She has won eight of her past nine matches, including an Australian Pro Tour title at Traralgon in November, her first in more than three years.

Now ranked 325, she was grateful to be given the chance to try to earn a spot in the main draw of the year’s first grand slam.

“I’m just looking to have fun this week,” she said.

“This is my favourite tournament of the year and I’m just super grateful to Tennis Australia for giving me a chance to compete in the qualifying.

“I’m definitely coming into this (week) with a bit of confidence from my last tournaments.

“I’ve been training heaps and playing some AMT doubles with a friend as well just to keep my match fitness going. So yeah, I’m feeling good.”

Aiava will face world No.237 Arianne Hartono, a 26-year-old from the Netherlands, in the second round.

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