Doubles title paves way for Hives' Australian Open debut

DELIGHTED: Zoe Hives and Alison Bai with their ITF Bendigo doubles title trophy

DELIGHTED: Zoe Hives and Alison Bai with their ITF Bendigo doubles title trophy

Ballarat’s Zoe Hives has secured a berth in next year’s Australian Open doubles main draw.

She will make her debut in a major after earning a wildcard by taking out the $60,000 Bendigo ITF doubles title.

The 21-year-old from Kingston will combine with Alison Bai from Canberra after their Bendigo giant-killing run in which they defeated the top three seeds.

Hives described the achievement as "amazing”.

Hives and Bai earned the wildcard as a reward for getting the highest aggregate points across back-to-back Canberra and Bendigo ITF tournaments.

Hives said the wildcard could not have been further from their minds going into the Bendigo event, having been a first round loser in Canberra.

She said they had not won a match a combination ahead of Bendigo and their first ambition was to simply get a win on the board in the first round.

“We just had a go.”

Hives said once through the opening round it began to build.

“It nice to win a title. It’s great. It wasn’t expected.”

They defeated the second seeds in the quarter finals, third seeds in the semi-finals and top seeds Arina Rodionova (Australia) and Asia Muhammad (United States) 4-6 6-4 (10-8) in the final.

Hives and Bai would have missed out on the wildcard with anything less than the title.

Hives said her first ITF doubles title and the wildcard capped off a big year.

She said after missing all 2016 with injury, she had had an uninterrupted year, including time overseas to lift her world singles ranking into the 380s.

Hives plans to finish the year by contesting the Australian Open singles wildcard play-offs on December 11-17 and Ballarat Open Platinum AMT on December 19-23.

Tennis Australia’s head of women’s tennis Nicole Pratt said Hives and Bai had put in the hard work this year to  earn this opportunity.

“The Australian Open is a highlight for all Aussie tennis players and fans alike, so it’s a great opportunity for them both to see how they perform on a global stage against some of the world’s best tennis players.”

“The Australian Open is a highlight for all Aussie tennis players and fans alike, so it’s a great opportunity for them both.”