Rod Laver Arena is really imposing, says smiling Hradecka

Mon Jan 19, 2015 2:06am EST
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By Greg Stutchbury

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - For about 20 minutes on Monday, Lucie Hradecka felt that playing on Rod Laver Arena was so overwhelming that she was never going to be able to nail a first serve or return anything that Ana Ivanovic blasted at her.

About an hour later, she was screaming in delight after causing a huge first day upset at the Australian Open with a 1-6 6-3 6-2 win over the fifth seeded Serb to record her third career victory over a top-five opponent.

"In the first set I was so nervy," said the 29-year-old Czech, who only made 40 percent of her first serves in the opener. "I had the feeling that the court is so big (and) I couldn't hit any balls in.

"When I started the second set, I thought 'okay, it cannot be any worse, let's play every point and let's see what will happen'.

"It's (now) two hours after (the) match, and I'm still smiling."

Hradecka, who played only three WTA level events in 2014, is ranked 142nd in the world and has had most of her success as a doubles player with compatriot Andrea Hlavackova, winning the 2011 French and 2013 U.S. Open titles.

The Czech had to qualify for the main draw at Melbourne Park and she suspected those matches had helped her acclimatize to conditions, though she was still overawed by her appearance on the main showcourt.

"It definitely helped me to play three matches in the qualifiers," she added. "If you feel the ball and the court a little bit... I think it's better.   Continued...

Ana Ivanovic of Serbia hits a return to Lucie Hradecka of Czech Republic during their women's singles first round match at the Australian Open 2015 tennis tournament in Melbourne January 19, 2015. Ivanovic lost the match to Hradecka.   REUTERS/Issei Kato