Former world top 40 player Heather Watson is among the 16 players to have secured qualification for the Australian Open 2014 women's singles main draw on Saturday.
Watson, looking refreshed after a challenging 2013 in which an illness saw her ranking sink from 39th to outside the top 100, now advances to her third Australian Open thanks to victory over American Irina Falconi 6-4 7-6(1) in the final round of women’s qualifying.
Watson faced an early 0-2 deficit, but the No.7 qualifying seed sparked into action against the 23rd seed to capture the first set in 51 minutes.
Great Britain’s third-ranked female took three straight games to work her way back into the contest, breaking Falconi’s serve to close out the opening set 6-4 on Show Court 3.
The 21-year-old warmed to the contest after a slow start, pumping herself up as she saved a break point in the seventh game of the set, before taking the game up a notch.
It was her strong forehand which was the catalyst for the turnaround, with four forehand winners at crucial stages of the set allowing the world No.120 to gain the upperhand.
The pair traded early breaks in the second set, before Falconi maintained composure on serve to prolong the contest by saving two match points at 4-5.
After fighting so gallantly, the American folded in the second set tiebreak as Watson reeled off the final seven points of the match to reach the main draw of AO2014.
Watson will look to improve on last year’s third round appearance, and build momentum for the year ahead after a 2013 season which was marred by the glandular fever illness that took her out of the tour for two months, and affected her performance in the latter part of the year.
Meanwhile, seeds Anna Tatishvili and Irina-Camelia Begu were both pushed to three sets as they qualified for the main draw. No.12 qualifying seed Tatishvili came from a set down to defeat Risa Ozaki 6-7(4) 7-5 6-2, while14th seed Begu downed Madison Brengle 6-3 7-5 1-6.
No.10 seed Vera Dushevina was not so fortunate. The Russian failed to qualify for what would have been her tenth Australian Open main draw appearance after falling to China’s Ying-Ying Duan in straight sets.
Despite a world-ranking of 190, Duan outlasted the experienced Dushevina 3-6 6-4 6-4 in a match which lasted just over two hours.
It will be Duan’s second Grand Slam tournament appearance after losing in the first round of last year’s US Open.
Croatian wildcard Ana Konjuh is another through to the first round. The 16-year-old capped of a strong qualifying campaign with a 6-0 6-3 win over Ukraine’s Olga Savchuk.
Others through to the first round include Zarina Diyas, Alla Kudryavtseva, Lucie Hradecka and Katerina Siniakova.
The main draw commences on Monday.