Tennis: Erakovic faces next big test

Marina Erakovic is through to the Australian Open's second round for just the second time in her career. Photo / Getty Images
Marina Erakovic is through to the Australian Open's second round for just the second time in her career. Photo / Getty Images

Marina Erakovic might have overcome the world's 219th-ranked player as well as poor light, the noise of trams, cars and spectators and even a huge number of bugs circling the court but she now faces the altogether more daunting task of overcoming Christina McHale in the second round of the Australian Open.

The Kiwi tennis No 1 beat French qualifier Irena Pavlovic 7-5 7-6(4) in one hour 56 minutes on one of the more undesirable back courts at Melbourne Park to progress to the second round of the year's first grand slam.

She will meet American McHale after the 19-year-old comfortably dispatched 24th seed Lucie Safarova from the Czech Republic 6-2 6-4.

McHale is a player on the rise and the youngest in the world's top 100. She had a very good 2011, when she rose from 115 to to 43 in the world on her first full year on the WTA Tour, and notched wins against the likes of Svetlana Kuznetsova, Marion Bartoli and, most notably, world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki.

Erakovic has never played McHale, who was easily beaten by Kuznetsova 6-1 6-1 in the second round of this month's ASB Classic in Auckland.

Erakovic will go into the match full of confidence, despite the fact she was beaten in the first round in both Auckland and Hobart.

"Sometimes you're tight and you want to do well,'' said Erakovic, who is ranked 62nd in the world. "I felt that in Auckland, I played heaps better and in Hobart. Here I played not so good and won.

"I felt as though I won the match because I hustled well and I got to a lot of balls and felt as though I was moving well. I feel good and the body is good, that's my No 1 priority. In the past I haven't done so well against power hitters, but I think I'm improving.''

Erakovic admitted she struggled in her opening match against Pavlovic, who plays an unorthodox and powerful two-handed shots on both sides of her body. There were seven breaks throughout the match as both players got little over 50 per cent of their first serves in but Erakovic dished up only one double fault - Pavlovic had nine.

"It was tough,'' Erakovic said of the conditions. "I looked at court 15 on my badge and thought, 'OK, it's the last one in the corner, you just have to deal with it'. For me the hardest part was adjusting from light to dark. I missed a few balls.''

- APNZ

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