A pre-season with Ash Barty has done wonders for Olivia Gadecki.
The unranked Australian 18-year-old pulled off the biggest win of her life by defeating reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin at the Phillip Island Trophy on Sunday.
The tournament is a WTA 250 being played at Melbourne Park at the same time as the Australian Open and Kenin entered after her early exit from the year’s opening grand slam.
But any hopes the American had of erasing the bad vibes from a second round exit were blown apart by the young Queenslander who struck 44 winners in a 2-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 win.
Gadecki hit a career-high ranking of 988 in mid-2019 but is currently unranked by the WTA.
Kenin is the world number four after a breakthrough 2020 season which saw her win the Australian Open, make the final of the French Open and reach the fourth round of the US Open.
But she will also go down in history as Gadecki’s first WTA victim after the Gold Coast product’s incredible display.
Gadecki thanked Barty, who was in the crowd to watch, for taking her under her wing.
“I’ve been very fortunate enough to have Ash training in Brisbane and she gave me the opportunity to do her pre-season with her,” Gadecki said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do what I did today without all her help, time and effort.”
Gadecki will play Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson or Belgium’s Greet Minnen in the last 16.
“This flew under the radar today at the AO, but massive career win for Olivia Gadecki,” tweeted Todd Woodbridge. “Great news for Aussie women’s tennis.”
It was the earliest exit for a women’s defending champion in the Australian Open since America’s Jennifer Capriati lost in the opening round in 2003.
Kenin was in tears during her post-match press conference, breaking down as she talked about the pressure she was under.
“I feel like everyone was always asking me, ‘Do you see yourself getting there and winning again’,” she said.
“Obviously I said yes but the way I’m playing … no.
“I know I couldn’t really handle the pressure.
“I’m not obviously used to this, so I’ve just got to figure out how to play at that level that I played at. Because like today and those matches it just hasn’t been there.”