Home » Saville, Rodionova lift Australia to 2-0 lead over Mexico at Brisbane

Saville, Rodionova lift Australia to 2-0 lead over Mexico at Brisbane

Daria Saville needed under an hour to post victory while Arina Rodionova did it the hard way at Pat Rafter Arena for her first win in the competition.

Brisbane, 12 April 2024 | Dan Imhoff

Daria Saville and Arina Rodionova have put Australia on the cusp of a return to the Billie Jean King Cup Finals after contrasting victories at Pat Rafter Arena on Friday.

Saville stepped up as a late replacement following Storm Hunter’s Achilles injury and raced past Marcela Zacarias 6-1 6-0 in just 51 minutes to give the hosts a 2-0 lead on Day One of the qualifying tie at Brisbane.

Rodionova earlier made a triumphant return to the Billie Jean King Cup fold after she survived free-swinging Mexican Giuliana Olmos 3-6 6-3 6-1 in her first outing for Australia in eight years.

“Honestly the plan was to play my brand of tennis and I did it really well,” Saville said. “I think I was pretty zoned in. It doesn’t happen that I play fast matches, so when it feels like ‘oh I’m winning easily’ then I come up with my own games – a game within the tennis match.

“I was like ‘okay if I’ve lost a point I’m like, well, I don’t want to lose two points in a row’. I felt like I was competing for every point just to not lose focus because that is my tendency a little bit.”

> READ: Saville to replace injured Hunter on Day One at Brisbane

In a battle of 30-year-olds, Saville, who recently returned to the top 100 following an extended stint on the sidelines to an ACL injury, cruised to victory to improve her singles record in the competition to 5-7.

It was a display of all-out aggression to which Zacarias had no answers and team captain Sam Stosur could not have been happier with the result heading into the final day.

“Dasha, absolutely everything was perfect today,” Stosur said.” She played great, focused the whole time, which was incredible. That’s what we’ve been able to see from Dash for many years now.

“For her to put that out on the court today was great and obviously Arina being able to fight back from a set down and you know 3-all [in the second set] it’s a very tight tussle. Juju [Olmos] was playing fantastic tennis for someone who doesn’t play singles too often.

“You wouldn’t have thought that by what she was producing so Arina just hung tight, she got another chance, was finally able to capitalise on one and then obviously she was able to run away with the third which was great.”

In the opening rubber, Rodionova dug her way back from a set down against an opponent better known for her doubles exploits to give the hosts a 1-0 lead in two hours and three minutes.

“She played unbelievable the first couple of sets so I just tried to stay there and try to win somehow,” Rodionova said.

“Obviously she’s not a singles player, so I’d be really surprised if she was able to maintain that level for three sets or the whole match because then on the day if you’re looking by the books, by the ranking, we’re the favourite team, we’re supposed to win but this is so dangerous.

“They have no pressure, they come out swinging and that’s what happens… [Sam] was saying just keep doing what you’re doing and she’s going to give you a chance and, yeah, I felt like she was hitting every line in the first set and a half and I was just like ‘when is that going to end?’”

> READ: Former Australian players reunite at Billie Jean King Cup in Brisbane

Olmos, who rose as high as world No.6 doubles but contested just one singles match on tour last season, played with the freedom of nothing to lose for the opening set and a half.

The Mexican’s sustained aggression – particularly on the backhand – robbed her opponent of time and her consistency only compounded pressure as she seized the early initiative and momentum.

Rodionova had to bide her time and after eight break point chances finally converted for 5-3 in the second set and reeled off nine of the final 10 games of the match.

The win marked Rodionova’s first victory for Australia, having fallen in he only prior singles clash and a dead doubles rubber in ties against Slovakia and the United States respectively in 2016.

The two-day Billie Jean King Cup by Gainbridge Qualifier tie, which sees Australia take on Mexico, is on Friday 12 April and Saturday 13 April.

Tickets are on sale through Ticketmaster, with adult prices starting at $20, concessions from $16, kids from $5 and family passes (two adults and two children) starting at $45.

> BUY NOW: Billie Jean King Cup tickets

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