Storm Hunter
Storm Hunter was all smiles after the most significant singles win of her career. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS
  • tennis

Hunter storms into third round of Australian Open

John Salvado January 18, 2024

Doubles supremo Storm Hunter is facing a radical career rethink after a thrilling run to the Australian Open singles third round.

Hunter’s hard-fought 6-4 3-6 6-3 win over German veteran Laura Siegemund on Wednesday vaulted the late bloomer into the Open’s last 32, with her singles ranking set to rocket from 180 to 127 – at least.

Her United Cup mixed doubles partner-in-crime Alex de Minaur was so impressed by the win he urged Hunter – the world’s top-ranked women’s doubles player – to take singles more seriously this year.

“Even before the Australian Open, that was on my radar, as well, just trying to prioritise a few more singles events,” said the 29-year-old Hunter.

“It is hard, because a lot of the 1000s are two-week events.

“I’ve done a really good job to get myself to No.1 in the world in doubles and I don’t want to give that up too easily.

“But I’m definitely not young anymore, I’m not planning on playing forever.

“While my body is feeling good, I do want to give singles a good crack … so I’m going to have to sacrifice some doubles here and there.”

De Minaur said what Hunter had achieved already this summer – playing a key role in Australia’s run to the United Cup semis and winning her first two main-draw singles matches at her home slam after a decade of toil – was remarkable.

“It’s a pretty amazing achievement what she’s accomplished, considering the lack of preparation she was able to have going from United Cup straight into qualifying,” he said after also powering into the Open’s third round.

“Hopefully, this gives her the belief to pursue the singles career a lot more.”

Making Wednesday’s triumph even more special was that Siegemund is one of the few women to recently get the better of the Australian on the doubles court, with wins at the season-ending WTA Finals in Mexico and the United Cup semis.

The German’s singles ranking of 78 is also more than 100 spots better than Hunter’s, but that disparity counted for nothing on Wednesday in front of a parochial crowd on John Cain Arena.

The first set was an unusual affair, with the first seven games all involving breaks of serve.

Hunter finally snapped the sequence in the eighth game, only for Siegemund to also hold for the first time.

But the Australian kept her nerve from 0-30 down in the 10th game, reeling off four straight points to take the opener 6-4.

Siegemund fought back to level the match at one-set all, but Hunter drew inspiration from a parochial home crowd to claim the decider.

“Being in the third round is a dream come true,” she said after also guaranteeing herself a minimum career pay day of $255,000.

“I’ve obviously watched so many players do it, Australian players like Ash (Barty) and Dasha (Daria Saville).

“They’re really good friends of mine and to be able to do that in front of you guys is amazing and in front of my team and my parents.”

Hunter
 Storm Hunter fed off the energy of the home crowd at John Cain Arena. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS 

Hunter’s third-round opponent will be Seigemund’s regular doubles partner Barbora Krejcikova from the Czech Republic. The No.9 seed made short work of Germany’s Tamara Korpatsch 6-2 6-2.

Were Hunter to find a way past 2021 French Open champ Krejcikova, her singles ranking would drop further to the cusp of the top 100, raising the enticing prospect of direct entry into all of the slams.

The only other Australian still in the women’s singles draw is Ajla Tomljanovic, who plays Latvia’s 2017 French Open champ Jelena Ostapenko in the second round on Thursday.

Chris O’Connell, Jordan Thompson and Alexei Popyrin could not join de Minaur in the third round of the men’s singles, with all three losing in four sets.

Thanasi Kokkinakis and Max Purcell will get their shot at a last-32 berth on Thursday.

AUSSIES IN ACTION ON DAY FIVE OF THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN ON THURSDAY (PREFIX DENOTES SEEDING):

Men’s singles, second round

Thanasi Kokkinakis v 13-Grigor Dimitrov (BUL)

Max Purcell v 11-Casper Ruud (NOR)

Women’s singles, second round

Ajla Tomljanovic v 11-Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)