AUSSIES ACE DAYONE
AS DEFEATED TOMIC TOM UNLEASHES
A FARM girl from a hardworking family on the outskirts of Ballarat has emerged as the nation’s surprise new hope at the Australian Open.
Six years after temporarily throwing in the towel on the sport she loves, Zoe Hives, 22, yesterday advanced to the second round in straight sets.
The quietly spoken pocket rocket from rural Kingston upset former world No.30 Bethanie Mattek-Sands, of the US, 6-1, 6-2 in the biggest win of her young career.
“I’m still processing it a bit but, yeah, amazing: my first grand slam and to get a win in the first one, it feels really great,” Hives said.
“It is really nice to have that crowd. You can tell when I won a point; it’s a lot different to when she won a point. I had a lot of people up from Ballarat today, family members.”
After signing autographs and taking in the adoration of the home crowd, the Melbourne Football Club fanatic told the Herald Sun she was on cloud nine.
“It’s definitely a bit different to what I’ve ever experienced before, but it is really nice.”
Hives, who travels to Melbourne from Ballarat to train, quit tennis at age 16 but returned to follow her dream before enduring 13 months of injury setbacks including knee, back and hip ailments.
She returned to the game in October last year with an Australian Open berth as incentive and yesterday guaranteed her efforts would earn at least $105,000 prizemoney.
Hives admitted she did not know much about her next opponent, French world No.19 Caroline Garcia, but was ready to “get into it”.
Proud dad Neil Hives said he and wife Jan were “stoked”.
“It’s a lot of work and a lot of effort for 17 years now, since she started,” he said.
“We’ve got a little court at home that as a little tacker she used to knock around on, so that’s where we first saw the determination that she had.
“She doesn’t have a great big serve but she can hit a lot of balls back and she has got some real strengths,” Mr Hives said.
Hives’ first coach, Peter Joyce, was in tears as he embraced Hives after she walked from the court.
“She has had to work so hard,” Mr Joyce said.
He said the young star would be an instant hit with Aussie fans: “She’s not an angry ant like some of them.”
BARTY HIVES DE MINAUR
Aussie winners (clockwise from left) MatthewEbden, Kimberly Birrell, Ash Barty and Astra Sharma.