Sport: PNG tennis player eyes Australian Open wildcard

8:52 am on 4 December 2019

Papua New Guinea tennis player Abigail Tere-Apisah is hoping to end a successful year on another high at the Australian Open Asia Pacific Wildcard tournament.

The 27-year-old became the first Pacific Island woman to win a professional singles title in May and won singles, doubles and team gold while representing PNG at the Pacific Games in July.

PNG tennis player Abigail Tere-Apisah.

PNG tennis player Abigail Tere-Apisah. Photo: Supplied

After taking close to three months off to rest, recover and deal with some medical issues, Tere-Apisah has slipped to 450 in the world rankings, from a career high of 276, and said being handed a wildcard entry into this week's event was a welcome bonus.

"Since I have been out for quite a while my ranking has dropped dramatically so I wasn't sure if I would get in automatically or if I did it would be into the qualifying rounds only," she said.

"The time off that I had I was watching my ranking drop every two weeks and deep down I was stressing out about it but there was nothing I could really do so I just had to kind of stay positive."

PNG's Abigail Tere-Apisah celebrates her win at the US$25,000 singles event in Singapore.

Abigail Tere-Apisah won her first professional singles title in May. Photo: Supplied

Tere-Apisah was a finalist at Asia Pacific Wildcard tournament 12 months ago and will be one of 16 players competing in Zhuhai, China this week for direct entry into the Australian Open main draw, with one place up for grabs in both the singles and doubles events.

"In terms of like match-play, I don't think I've played enough since the Pacific Games," said the Port Moresy-based player.

"But, besides that, I feel pretty good hitting on the court and I was still quite pleased with how I played when i went to Thailand (last month).

"It was my first tournament back after the Games and I was still kind of pleased with how I played there - it almost felt like I didn't stop for a long time."

Abigail Tere-Apisah (2R) won singles, doubles and team gold at the 2019 Pacific Games.

Abigail Tere-Apisah (2R) won singles, doubles and team gold at the 2019 Pacific Games. Photo: Games News Service

World number 182 Na-Lae Han of Korea is the top seed in the women's singles draw, with the 11th seeded Tere-Apisah to face second seed Ayano Shimizu of Japan in her first round match on Thursday.

She will also team up with Japan's Erina Hayashi in the women's double, with the duo getting underway this evening against China's Ye Qiuyu and Korea's Kim Da-bin.

"I basically know everyone that's in the main draw right now and I've played against a few of them in both singles and doubles and I've also seen some of them at tournaments around in Asia/Oceania," said Tere-Apisah, on the line from China.

"So, I'm quite familiar with a lot of them. I think that's a little bit of an advantage, like I'll be able to at least know a little bit about my opponent."

"I'm really trying to be positive because I really feel like I've improved a lot in my game since last year so I definitely feel a bit more confident and I think my confidence levels would be a little bit higher if I had continued to play after the Pacific Games but that didn't happen.

"So I'm just trying to stay positive and have fun. I'm just trying to enjoy it and I think the results will come, hopefully."