Ballarat’s Zoe Hives will play Bethanie Mattek-Sands second-up on court 8 in her round one Australian Open encounter.
When most people read the name Mattek-Sands, socks pulled up to the knees and war paint under the eyes comes to mind.
She’s an entertaining doubles star who has been on the WTA circuit for over a decade.
But 22-year-old Hives is in with a strong chance to put a winning touch on her Australian Open debut.
Mattek-Sands, currently ranked 348 in the world, missed a chunk of 2018 through injury while Hives has returned from injury and made a rise up the ranks over the last six months to earn a career-high ranking of 211 and subsequently a wildcard to the first major on the tennis calendar.
Mattek-Sands, 33, has lost her last seven singles matches – she has not tasted victory on the singles court since defeating Johanna Larsson at the French Open in May.
That’s not to say Mattek-Sands is out of touch with the racquet, she did win her eighth doubles grand slam title at last year’s US Open, claiming the mixed doubles event.
The question will be can she regather some sort of form on the singles court, having been ranked 30 in the world in 2011. The experience of Mattek-Sands should not be understated.
We caught up with Zoe and her parents during the week. Watch the video here.
Another key factor will be how Hives adjusts to the high-pressure environment of the Australian Open.
She will experience many things for the first time on Monday, in what will be the biggest day in her tennis life to date.
The Melbourne Park crowd will flock to any court with an Australian player.
The intensity of playing a major is something that cannot be replicated on the practice court.
But she could just as easily rise to the occasion and settle in beautifully.
Hives is scheduled for the second match on court 8. There is no way of telling her exact match time, but it will likely be around 1pm.
*The Courier will be following Zoe’s match at Melbourne Park today. Follow thecourier.com.au throughout the day.