Sun, Jan 15, 2017 - Page 10 News List

Qualifier Elise Mertens takes trophy in Hobart

AP, HOBART, Australia

Belgian qualifier Elise Mertens’ decision to forgo singles qualifying for the Australian Open paid big dividends yesterday when she beat Monica Niculescu 6-3, 6-1 in the Hobart International final.

As the 21-year-old Mertens advanced through the Hobart field, including a win over top-seeded Kiki Bertens, she had a difficult decision to make: Withdraw from the tournament and head to Melbourne for Open qualifying, or stay in the Tasmanian state capital and keep playing.

She decided to stay. So in addition to the trophy and first-place prize money of US$32,000, her efforts will see her break into the top 100 in rankings, possibly as low as 81. She was 127th at the start of the Hobart event.

A previous Hobart winner in 2000 was Kim Clijsters and Mertens took her inspiration from the fellow Belgian.

“She’s really a role model for me — what she achieved was amazing,” Mertens said of the former No. 1. “I hope I can be a little bit like her... I still have some years to go so I’ll see where it ends.”

Mertens still has a place in Melbourne — in the Australian Open doubles draw with Louisa Chirico.

In Australian Open women’s singles qualifying, Taiwan’s Chang Kai-chen could not get past Sabina Sharipova of Uzbekistan, defeated 5-7, 6-1, 7-5 in the second round.

Additional reporting by staff writer

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