MELBOURNE • Teenage sensation Marta Kostyuk was hailed as the "future of tennis" yesterday after she became the youngest Australian Open second-round winner since Martina Hingis in 1996.
The 15-year-old was rewarded with an all-Ukrainian clash tomorrow against fourth seed Elina Svitolina as her fairy-tale run at the year's first Grand Slam continued with a 6-3, 7-5 win over local wild card Olivia Rogowska.
It had commentators gushing over Kostyuk, who extended her winning streak at Melbourne Park to 11 matches after lifting the girls' title last year and coming through qualifying this year.
"This is the future, ladies and gentlemen. Fifteen years of age," said former British No. 1 Sam Smith on Australia's Channel 7. "This is an incredible story. This is the future of tennis on your screen."
Before this week, Kostyuk's total career prize money was US$6,733 (S$8,912), but she already has plans for the bumper US$142,500 payday she will earn even if she loses to Svitolina in the third round.
"Maybe I will get presents for my family, first of all, of course, because I have big family," she said. "And then for myself a bit. Yeah."
DAY 3 SELECTED RESULTS
MEN, 2ND RD: Grigor Dimitrov (Bul) bt Mackenzie McDonald (USA) 4-6 6-2 6-4 0-6 8-6, Andreas Seppi (Ita) bt Yoshihito Nishioka (Jpn) 6-1 6-3 6-4, Pablo Carreno-Busta (Esp) bt Gilles Simon (Fra) 6-2 3-0 ret, Marin Cilic (Cro) bt Joao Sousa (Por) 6-1 7-5 6-2, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Fra) bt Denis Shapovalov (Can) 3-6 6-3 1-6 7-6 (7-4) 7-5.
WOMEN, 2ND RD: Kateryna Bondarenko (Ukr) bt Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Rus) 6-2 6-3, Luksika Kumkhum (Tha) bt Belinda Bencic (Sui) 6-1 6-3.
She has been playing tennis since the age of five and she was watched by tennis-playing mum and coach Talina Beyko - who once reached No. 391 in the world - in her player's box on Margaret Court Arena.
In the first round, she dismantled Chinese No. 1 and 25th seed Peng Shuai 6-2, 6-2 in 57 minutes.
She continued in the same vein against Rogowska, taking the opening set in only 39 minutes.
"I didn't feel like she was 15 at all," said Rogowska. "She's going to be a dangerous player when she grows up."
Svitolina clearly knows what to expect when she faces her young compatriot tomorrow.
MELBOURNE PARK SNIPPETS
STAT OF THE DAY
Aces by Ivo Karlovic in his 7-6 (7-3), 6-7 (3-7), 7-5, 4-6, 12-10 win over Japan's Yuichi Sugita. The Croat, 38, became the oldest man to reach the Australian Open third round since 44-year-old Ken Rosewall in 1978.
"I watched her a little bit in the first round," said the world No. 4, after coming through against Katerina Siniakova 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.
"You know, she has nothing to lose, she goes just for everything. You know, a little bit like a headless chicken."
Kostyuk is managed by former player Ivan Ljubicic, Roger Federer's coach, and said she was pleased to have such experience in her corner. And long hours of practice, she added, was the key.
"Well, I heard a lot of times that I'm talented," she told reporters.
"But I know that only talent will not help me to play good. So I can say that I'm working pretty hard."
At 5-1, 40-15, I felt like I was one foot out of the tournament... When I managed to win it to 5-2, I said, okay, I'm still alive.
CAROLINE WOZNIACKI, world No. 2, on saving two match points against Croatian Jana Fett en route to the greatest comeback of her career. The 27-year-old won the second-round clash 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 .
Her fellow seed-slayers Belinda Bencic and Zhang Shuai were brought back down to earth as they both failed to follow up their first-round exploits.
Swiss Bencic, who knocked out last year's runner-up Venus Williams on Monday, slumped to a 6-1, 6-3 defeat by Thai qualifier Luksika Kumkhum.
Chinese Zhang, conqueror of US Open champion Sloane Stephens, fell 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) to Czech qualifier Denisa Allertova.
In the men's draw, world No. 1 Rafael Nadal powered into the third round with a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) victory over Leonardo Mayer.
The win took the 31-year-old Spaniard's Australian Open record to 53-11 as he chases his second Australian title after beating Federer in the 2009 final.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Day 4: Singtel TV Ch114/115 & StarHub Ch208/209, 8am & 4pm