Australia’s Daria Saville has claimed her biggest win in almost 18 months, toppling world No.46 Russian Anna Blinkova in the opening round of the Hobart International.
It is a big boost for the 29-year-old ahead of the Australian Open – Saville was contentiously granted the final discretionary wildcard ahead of the country’s highest-ranked woman Arina Rodionova.
Saville, who returned to the tour in June after suffering a serious knee injury, came from behind to topple Blinkova 3-6 6-4 6-4 on Monday night.
Blinkova is the highest-ranked player Saville has beaten since she ousted then-world No.7 Jessica Pegula at Washington DC’s Citi Open in August 2022.
It is just the second time she has beaten a top 50 player since returning from injury.
“It’s my first top-50 win in a while. I have come close, so really nice after all of my injuries and so nice to be back playing at home,” she said.
“I can only get better … I’m still building.”
Saville, currently ranked 195, said she had reached out to world No.105 Rodionova, who must battle through qualifying to make the Australian Open main draw.
“I sent her a message, I said ‘I’m so sorry’,” Saville said.
“I made a joke (saying) ‘I’m so sorry but I’m not giving up my wildcard’.
“She sent a nice message back saying it is what it is and I want you to do well.
“It wasn’t up to us and I think it was a really tough decision.”
Saville, a wildcard entrant in Hobart, had a match point serving for the third set but double-faulted.
Blinkova returned the favour with two double faults in a row to concede the match.
Saville will face either 2020 Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin or Belgium’s Greet Minnen in the second round.
Earlier, top seed Elise Mertens breezed past former Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins to make the second round.
World No.29 Mertens, who won the tournament in 2017 and 2018, was too consistent in the 6-2 6-3 victory.
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She found herself down a break early in the second set before picking up four games in a row against a visibly frustrated Collins.
Collins, ranked No.54 in the world, had a stunning run to the final at Melbourne Park in 2022.
Mertens next faces Slovakia’s Anna-Karolina Schmiedlova, who toppled fellow qualifier Maria Camila Osorio Serrano 1-6 7-6 (7-4) 7-5 to earn a first-round win.