Priscilla Hon has praised the ‘Ash Barty effect’ for helping drive the Australians’ powerful performance at Wimbledon qualifying.
Eight Australian players – five women and three men – are set for their very own ‘finals’, aiming for the final-round qualifying victories on Thursday that would transport them into the main draw of the world’s biggest tournament.
Jason Kubler, one of the country’s most successful players in recent weeks after being the last Aussie standing at the French Open, led the parade of players enjoying a fine Wednesday at Roehampton, just five miles up the road from the All England Club.
Of the 11 Australians who set out in the women’s draw, Hon, Astra Sharma, Zoe Hives, Jaimee Fourlis and Maddison Inglis proved the survivors after both Storm Sanders and Lizette Cabrera departed in the second round.
Those five will all be in action in Thursday’s ‘finals’, along with Kubler, Rinky Hijikata and Max Purcell, three of only four Australians who entered the men’s qualifiers but who are now fancying their chances of being in Friday’s draw at the All England Club.
At least one Australian is guaranteed to join Ajla Tomljanovic and Daria Saville in the women’s main draw, with Hon and Hives drawn together in a winner-takes-all showdown, both dreaming of playing their maiden Wimbledon.
For the 25-year-old Hives, who’s ranked as low as 572 in the world, it would be a fairytale to be playing on Monday after she’s battled against chronic fatigue to resurrect her career.
She booked her all-Australian date after beating American Sachia Vickery 6-0 6-3, but should start the underdog against Hon, who’s taken inspiration from reigning Wimbledon champion Barty, who stunned the sport with her shock retirement in March.
“When Ash was training, I saw her every day. Just seeing what she does helps you think anything is achievable,” Barty’s fellow Queenslander and former Fed Cup teammate Hon told wimbledon.com after a notable 6-2 6-4 win over the No.1 qualifying seed, American Katie Volynets.
“She was very detailed with everything she did. That’s one thing I really loved about her. Every session she was always 100 per cent there.
“We have a lot of girls in qualifying and hopefully we can change it around and turn it into the men’s, where most of our players are in the main draw, and not in qualifying. Hopefully in the next year or two we will start to see this.
“Obviously Ash led the way. It was very emotional actually seeing her win Wimbledon. I don’t really get emotional but there were definitely a lot of feels.”
Inglis, the Aussie No.3 women’s player, knocked out Luxembourg veteran Mandy Minella 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 6-2 while Sharma, the national No.4, battled to a 6-3 4-6 6-3 triumph over Spain’s Irene Burillo Escorihuela.
Kubler and Fourlis reached the Australian Open mixed doubles final together – and will now both have their eyes set on playing grand slam singles at Wimbledon in the same year.