Zoe Hives will play American Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the opening round of the Australian Open next week.
Mattek-Sands, 33, is an experienced campaigner and holds a current singles ranking of 348, but has been as high as 30 in 2011.
Mattek-Sands’ success has come on the doubles court, winning eight grand slam titles and reaching the world number one doubles ranking.
However, last year was a difficult one for Mattek-Sands recovering from a dislocated kneecap and ruptured patellar ligament, but she did return late in 2018 to claim the US Open mixed doubles crown.
Ballarat’s Hives was relieved to find out her opponent was an unseeded player and was excited to hit the Melbourne Park courts.
“I’m happy with that, I have some idea of who she is and she’s not one of the top players and I feel like I’ll be able to match her on-court,” Hives said.
“I’m less nervous now that I know who I’m playing, the last hour hasn’t been easy.
“I’m really happy that I’ll be on one of the lesser courts and go out and enjoy it. I’m just really excited about the whole experience and the last two weeks have given me a lot of confidence.
Hives’ parents, Jan and Neil, told The Courier how proud they are of Zoe’s achievements to date and were looking forward to embarking on the biggest moment of her career so far next week.
“It’s been a long journey and it’s lovely of Tennis Australia to have the confidence in Zoe to give her a wildcard,” Jan said.
“She’s shown she can match it with these girls, I think she’s ready.”
“We’ve worn a couple of cars out going up to Melbourne,” Neil joked.
“But that’s what it takes to support a kid like Zoe right through that journey.
“It’s another great opportunity for Zoe to develop her tennis further at the top-level, I think she’ll do well, I’m really proud of her.”
Hives played at the Brisbane International and Hobart International in the lead-up, enjoying some strong results. The help of her tight-knit team, led by coach Michael Logarzo, providing HIves with the best possible preparation.
She will play on Monday.