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Rodionova: 'I can finally say I'm a good tennis player'

3 minute read

She feels like she might be a little late to the party, but Arina Rodionova is celebrating her historic breakthrough into the world top-100 at the age of 34.

ARINA RODIONOVA. Picture: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Arina Rodionova is this week starting life as one of the world's top 100 women tennis players - even if she laughs that it feels like she's 10 years overdue to join the club.

But with a cry of "better late than never", the oldest player ever to make a debut in the WTA's top-100 at the age of 34 is determined to push on and ensure her record-breaking feat is just the start of her enjoying every minute of a late-career surge as Australia's No.1.

And the Russian-born Melburnian, who's been battling away as professional for nearly 20 years, is certainly not resting on her laurels after reaching her landmark position of No.97 in the rankings on Monday.

This most hard-working of players, who racked up 107 matches in her breakthrough 2023, was immediately back into business this week, flying from Thailand, where she made the quarter-finals of the Thai Open, straight to India to compete in the Mumbai Open.

Seeded No.4 in this smaller WTA 125 event, she faces Dutch player Suzan Lamens in Tuesday's opening round while looking for another good run that could push her up into the 80s in the rankings.

For every position gained is important as Rodionova seeks automatic entry into the sport's biggest events instead of having to rely on wildcards or battling through qualifying to make it into grand slam main draws, which she's done 10 times

But it sounds as if the breakthrough already makes her feel like a different player.

"To be top 100, I can finally say I'm actually a good tennis player," Rodionova laughed in an interview on the official Tennis Australia website.

"Because when your career-best is 116, people are like, 'Oh, you're just 116, That's not that great'.

"It's crazy, I feel like I'm 10 years too late to the party, but I guess it's better late than never. I'm glad I finally made it.

"I feel like I deserve to be here because I put in so much work last year (after a wrist injury).

"I played week after week after week and just worked hard. It's obviously not an easy lifestyle, I was on my own for a lot of the year. I was away from home for 10 months."

"I don't necessarily need to scream about it from every corner, but I know what I've done and it was not easy. So I'm super proud of my achievement.

"I'm just excited. I'm going to try and enjoy this year. Obviously I'm going to try to play bigger tournaments. There lots of work to do, but hopefully it will be a bit more enjoyable."

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