Ask Lesia Tsurenko’s what her favorite tournament is and she’ll tell you it’s the Australian Open.
The 23-year-old Tsurenko is not likely to change that opinion now that she’s earned her first Grand Slam third round appearance. Tsurenko, who hails from the Ukraine, took care of fellow qualifier Daria Gavrilova of Russia 7-5 6-3 on an intensely hot Thursday afternoon.
“I just like it here, not because of my results, but just because it’s the best tournament,” said the 85th-ranked Tsurenko. “It’s the most comfortable city in the world for me, probably. And the tournament is so nice and the people here are so amazing.”
The victory didn’t come easily for Tsurenko, who admits that the only thing at home in the Ukraine that feels as hot as it was outside in Melbourne is the house furnace.
“Today was so hot,” Tsurenko said. “It’s the first match for me when it’s so hot, so it was even nicer to win this match. When you go out it’s this hot coming into your face. Today was the hottest day for me ever.”
It wasn’t a pretty match by any means and was categorised more by player error rather than excellent play. The 223rd-ranked Gavrilova posted 53 unforced errors during the one hour, 54 minute match. For her part, Tsurenko only did marginally better with 42 unforced errors to her credit.
In all, there were 28 break point opportunities with 21 of them offered up by Gavrilova – Tsurenko successfully broke serve seven times and Gavrilova broke serve four times.
“I think she did a lot of mistakes today, but me too,” Tsurenko said. “With this kind of weather you can’t show your best tennis.”
Tsurenko enjoyed a big push two weeks ago when as a lucky loser she advanced to the Brisbane semifinals, beating Jarmila Gajdosova and Daniela Hantuchova before losing to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the semifinals.
“It was my first (WTA) semifinal so it was big luck for me,” Tsurenko said. “And to get to the main draw as a lucky loser, it was my first time being a lucky loser and I did a good result. It’s a lot of firsts for me lately.”
Tsurenko had revenge for the Brisbane semifinal loss when she turned the tables to upset the 24th-seeded Pavlyuchenkova in the first round here, 7-5 3-6 7-5.
“After winning my qualifying matches here to beat Pavlyuchenkova after losing to her in Brisbane is a good feeling,” Tsurenko said. “After that semifinal I knew how I had to play her and what mistakes I did in Brisbane. I was more confident.
The stakes will get higher in the third round for Tsurenko when she faces former No.1 Caroline Wozniacki.
“I will play a top 10 player and this is good for me and very exciting,” Tsurenko said.
While Tsurenko enjoys Melbourne she usually ends up spending most of her time hanging around watching tennis: “Honestly, I stay the whole day here because even if I’m not playing I like to watch tennis. I like to watch men’s matches especially because I think men’s tennis now is just amazing. They are strong and have all the shots.”
Tsurenko, however, doesn’t have her eye on any particular one of the players nor a boyfriend back home. As she puts it: “I have a boyfriend and his name is tennis. It takes all my time.”