Harriet Dart qualified at a grand slam for the fifth time in Melbourne – and she hopes it will be the last.
The British number three, who is ranked 125, defeated Australian wild card Kimberly Birrell 6-3 6-3 in the final round of qualifying at the Australian Open, dropping just one set in her three matches.
It marks the third time in four years that Dart has successfully negotiated qualifying at Melbourne Park – she reached round two in 2020 before losing to Simona Halep – while she has also made it through twice at the US Open.
Asked about her record, Dart said with a smile: “It shows I need to be not in qualifying any more and try to put myself in a position where I can be directly in, because playing three matches against good players is never easy.”
Both players struggled to hold serve, with Birrell managing it just twice in the match, but Dart battled well, twice coming from a break down in the second set.
“I’m just super happy and pleased to be through,” she said. “I always knew it was going to be a really tough match. We’re good friends and we’ve practised a lot together but never actually played a match.
“I think I benefited from playing last week here, I got three matches under these conditions. I guess I’ve got the experience of coming through twice here before so I definitely think that helped me today.”
Dart, who has begun working with Britain’s Dave Collins after being guided predominantly by Eastern European coaches, joins compatriots Emma Raducanu, Heather Watson, Cameron Norrie, Dan Evans and Andy Murray in the main draw.
With Covid rates rising sharply in Melbourne, the 25-year-old has been playing it safe and sticking to takeaways in her hotel room – with fish restaurant Hunky Dory her favourite.
She said: “It’s definitely still quite challenging. My main concern is more I don’t want to test positive to then be stuck here and then not be able to get home. I’m just being as careful as possible.”
There was more British success to end the day as an emotional Liam Broady recovered from a set and 5-2 down to defeat in-form Russian Roman Safiullin 4-6 7-6 (2) 6-2 and qualify in Melbourne for the first time.
Broady, who also qualified at the 2020 French Open, lay on the court at the end soaking in the moment and will get a crack at Nick Kyrgios in the first round providing the Australian is clear of Covid-19 in time.
Broady said: “I’m pretty ecstatic. Having qualified for the French the year before last I kind of felt like I’d been here before and had already climbed the mountain of qualifying for a slam. I definitely felt a lot more relaxed and a lot less nervous than I have done in the past.
“One of the main things I wanted to do was get revenge on Roman. He beat me one and one the last time we played at French Open qualies and I wanted him to see that I’m a good player as well.
“It wasn’t looking like that was going to be the case. At 6-4 5-2 I was thinking ‘geez this isn’t going how I planned it’, but I managed to hang in there and give myself a chance. I’m just proud that I managed to beat a guy like Roman.”