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Mladenovic inflicts more Aussie heartache

4 January 2020, by

UPDATED: The star of France’s stunning defeat of an Ash Barty-led Australia in last year’s Fed Cup final, Kristina Mladenovic is back to her winning ways Down Under.

The Frenchwoman was undefeated as she carried her nation to a third Cup triumph last November, and on Saturday dished out more Aussie heartache when she narrowly denied wildcard Ellen Perez 6-4 4-6 6-4 in the first round of Brisbane International qualifying.

Perez, who kickstarted the wave of Australian players pledging donations to her country’s bushfire relief efforts, stuck with the world No.39 for two hours and 11 minutes before she succumbed.

Mladenovic next meets Ludmilla Samsonova, after the Russian outlasted another Australian wildcard, Kaylah Mcphee 7-6(7) 6-7(4) 6-4 in a three-hour and 14-minute battle.

Samsonova was among four Russians to post opening-round qualifying victories on Saturday with Anastasia Potapova, No.3 seed Veronika Kudermetova and Natalia Vikhlyantseva also through.

Former Brisbane champion Kaia Kanepi, of Estonia, was unable to win through qualifying for the third straight year after she fell to No.5 seed Marie Bouzkova, 7-5 6-3.

Bouzkova made a surprise run to the Canadian Open semi-finals last season with wins over Grand Slam champions Sloane Stephens, Jelena Ostapenko and Simona Halep before falling to Serena Williams in three sets. The Czech will face Australian Lizette Cabrera, the first qualifying winner of the day, in the next round.

Cabrera was one of two Australians – both Queenslanders – through after her routing of 17-year-old American Whitney Osuigwe 6-2 6-1.

A resurgent Storm Sanders, who reached the final of last month’s Australian Open Wildcard Playoff, was the other.

The 25-year-old ground out a 6-2 2-6 6-4 win over Russian Varvara Flink and will take on British former world No.38 Heather Watson, a 6-2 7-6(4) winner over No.6 seed Fiona Ferro.

There was no such luck for Watson’s countrywoman, Harriet Dart, as she fell 6-4 6-3 to top-seeded Kazakh, Yulia Putintseva.