Perez's big for Australian Open singles dream dashed in qualfying

Rising talent: Ellen Perez against Ashleigh Barty at the Sydney International. Picture: AAP Image/Craig Golding

Rising talent: Ellen Perez against Ashleigh Barty at the Sydney International. Picture: AAP Image/Craig Golding

Ellen Perez was up for the fight. 

It was reflected in her gritty service break of Greece’s Valentini Grammatikopoulou to take the second set and level the match. 

And again to stay in touch at 3-2, when it took an 18-point, back-and-forth battle at deuce to stay in touch against an opponent 133 placed above her on the world tour. But, having flown to Melbourne to play just 48 hours after bowing out in straight sets against fellow Australian Ash Barty at the Sydney International, Perez’s Australian Open main draw dream was over at the first round of the qualifiers. 

Perez conceded the final three games of the match, going down 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 in 96 minutes. 

A former US College talent, the 22-year-old showed her immense potential when she pushed Barty to a tie-break in the first set, before falling 7-6, 6-1, leaving her heading for the airport for a last-ditch push to qualify. 

“It was a blast playing in my first WTA tour level main draw and getting my first win,” Perez wrote after the match. “Ash was too good.”

 Perez had progressed through to the second round after moving past world No.11 Kristina Mladenovic, who retired in scorching conditions on Sunday.

Perez made a breakthrough into a grand slam main draw in 2016 at the US Open. 

“I’ve been playing college tennis so to get this opportunity was amazing. To get that first win helps my confidence and moving forward in the WTA, I feel really good about that,” she said earlier this week. I played the US Open and got to play Shuai Zhang, and got killed, so it was nice to get a win.”

She is now hopeful of making an impact in the doubles tournament. 

Perez has been playing on the Australian circuit this year, making the semi-finals with Alison Bai in the Bendigo doubles tournament, and losing the final at Canberra with American Asia Muhammad. 

The Australian Open begins on Monday, the tournament now wide open in the women’s singles after the withdrawal of defending champion Serena Williams.

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