Arina Rodionova makes tennis history after controversial snub at Australian Open

The 34-year-old has achieved a remarkable slice of history never seen before in women's tennis.

Arina Rodionova.
Arina Rodionova has become the oldest women's player to reach the top 100 for the first time. Image: Getty/WTA

Australia's Arina Rodionova has became the oldest woman in tennis history to reach the top 100 for the first time. The 34-year-old, who was controversially overlooked for a wildcard into the Australian Open last month, has risen to World No.96 in the live rankings after battling back to beat Chinese player Bai Zhuoxuan 3-6 6-1 6-0 at the Thailand Open.

The win in Hua Hin on Thursday night booked Rodionova a quarter-final spot, and ensures she will officially enter the world's top 100 for the first time in her career when the rankings are updated on Monday. The previous oldest player to reach the top 100 for the first time was Tzipi Obziler at 33 years and eight months.

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That record now belongs to Rodionova at 34 years and one month. The Aussie couldn't contain her emotions after realising a long-held dream, burying her head into her towel and crying tears of joy after the match.

Arina Rodionova's controversial snub at Australian Open

It will come as a sweet reward for the Aussie veteran, who was left fuming last month when she didn't receive a wildcard into the Australian Open. Rodionova is Australia's top-ranked female player (in part due to recent injuries suffered by Ajla Tomljanovic and Daria Saville), but Tennis Australia opted to hand Saville a wildcard instead.

It meant Rodioniva had to go through the qualifying tournament, but she lost in the first round. Saville didn't exactly make the most of the wildcard either, losing in the first round of the main draw.

"The only regrets I have from today is just I gave Tennis Australia something to celebrate," Rodionova said after her loss in qualifying. "I think they are very pleased with my result today and that's what makes me upset."

Arina Rodionova, pictured here during qualifying for the Australian Open.
Arina Rodionova in action during qualifying for the Australian Open. (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

She claimed Tennis Australia had a personal vendetta against her. "There are so many things and instances that happened between myself and people in charge of, like, the head of women's tennis and other people in Tennis Australia," she added. "There were just so many things behind the scenes that it is very clear to me that I'm not liked.

"And it's not just clear to me, it's clear to every single Australian tennis player and everyone. It's not exactly a secret, everyone knows it and now it's kind of funny that basically by making this decision they decided to make it public as well."

Arina Rodionova finally breaks into top 100 at age 34

Rodionova has finally broken through the top-100 barrier after a 14-year professional career that started in Russia when she was 20. She won seven singles titles on the lower tier ITF circuit in 2023 in a breakout year after recovering from a serious wrist injury. Remarkably, she started last year ranked 302nd in the world.

If she can go on and win the tournament in Hua Hin, Rodionova could shoot up to around 70th in the world. The next highest-ranked Australian woman is Kim Birrell at No.124.

Rodionova roared back to win the last 11 games of the match against 21-year-old Bai, advancing to just the second quarter-final of her career at a WTA-level event. The last time she got to the last-eight was in Nanchang, China in 2017.

She has already taken out two Chinese players in her run to the quarters, and will now have to get past a third - second seed Zhu Lin - if she wants to make the semis. The World No.45 Zhu ensured there would be three Chinese players in the quarters as she defeated Linda Fruhvirtova 6-2 6-2.

with AAP

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