Daria Saville has made the long, tough climb back into the world’s top 100 players despite being knocked out in the WTA grass-court event in Berlin.
Australia’s No.2 proved no match on the green stuff for world No.6 Maria Sakkari, who beat her 6-1 7-5 in the last-16 of the Wimbledon warm-up event on Wednesday.
But there was a huge consolation for the Melbourne player as Saville could celebrate returning to the WTA’s top 100 for the first time since August 2019 after a debilitating battle with injury.
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Saville had to take 10 months out of the sport and had a rough recuperation from an Achilles operation which made the former top-20 player wonder if she’d ever get back to her previous levels.
But the 28-year-old, who was ranked as low as 627 at the start of February, has risen over 500 places in four-and-a-half months, featuring tremendous performances in Indian Wells and Miami and being the top Australian singles player, man or woman, at the recent French Open.
Next week, she’ll be back up, provisionally, to No.95 in the rankings, accompanying 45th-ranked Ajla Tomljanovic as the only Australian women in the leading 100.
Match of the day in Berlin saw Karolina Pliskova edge Bianca Andreescu 6-4 2-6 7-6 (9-7).
Wimbledon finalist Pliskova struck down a dozen aces against the 2019 US Open champ Andreescu, though she had to fight back from a break down in the third set before prevailing in 2 hours 11 minutes.
French Open finalist Coco Gauff got off to a winning start with a 6-2 7-6 (7-2) first-round victory over fellow American Ann Li.
Daria Kasatkina rallied to beat Russian compatriot Ekaterina Alexandrova 5-7 6-1 6-1 and will meet Sakkari in the quarters.
Meanwhile, in the Birmingham Classic event, 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep was looking in good form, recording a 6-3 6-2 win over Britain’s Harriet Dart in just over an hour.
“I feel great and feel like I played better than in my previous match,” said 30-year-old Halep.
“I am doing my best every time I step on the court and looking to play as many matches as possible to get that feeling I had in 2019.”
In the quarter-finals, the Romanian will next face Britain’s rising Katie Boulter, the girlfriend of Australian No.1 men’s player Alex de Minaur, who is enjoying a breakthrough week after beating France’s Caroline Garcia, a former top-five player, 7-6 (7-5) 6-1.