In most elite sportspeople, and even those at a lower level, there’s often a few moments that they look back on as integral to their careers.
For Zoe Hives, her 2019 Australian Open campaign looks to be one of those moments.
Hives’ wildcard entry into the women’s singles resulted in an emphatic round one win before a competitive loss to a player ranked 19 in the world.
The 22-year-old admitted she struggled with the surrounds of a major grand slam court in that defeat to Caroline Garcia, but after adjusting her game, proved she could match it on the big stage.
Although she lost 6-3 6-3, the signs were there that she belonged at this level.
“I just want to play more of these players and be exposed to it more because I know that will help to take my game to the next level,” Hives said.
“Just playing these players more often, it’s such a big difference from ITF level. Like I feel I have a good return at ITF level, but here you’re like ‘I have so much to do’, you can’t just get it into play.”
There have been times over the 22-year-old’s journey where such achievements have seemed unlikely.
Injury, coupled with the difficult nature of making it on the women’s circuit have provided Ballarat’s Hives with plenty of hurdles, but this week at Melbourne Park provided the justified reward for her hard work and persistence.
Hives thanked for family for all their support through her journey to date.
“They’ve always been honest and said if we don’t think you can make it, we’ll say something to you.”
Not only have her parents been there for emotional support, but they have helped her continue her dream financially.
Hives, who will pocket $105,000 for her second round exit, said while you could not put a price on the experience, the prize money will ease the strain that is brought on by the necessary travel of a budding tennis star.
Prior to the tournament Hives had a career earnings of $43,576, that will receive a significant boost.
Last year Hives travelled around Europe solo, which she admits was difficult, such was the financial squeeze to continue her quest.
This week’s exposure is sure to help when it comes to sponsorship as well.
“Their support has been amazing and it’s great now that I’ll be able to financially support my own career.
“It just takes the pressure off a lot of things. But they’ve always been there to support and help financially – I wouldn’t be here without them.”
Garcia said she did not know much about her opponent, but said she was wary of Hives’ potential having seen her performances at the Hobart International and her opening round.
Hives will continue her campaign on Saturday when her and doubles partner Alison Bai take to the court for their round two encounter with Desirae Krawczyk (USA) and Nao Hibino (Japan).
Hives plans to travel to Tasmania after the Open to play ITF tournaments in Burnie and Launceston.