Tennis teen Freya Christie makes sparkling Australian Open debut

BIG SHOT -- Hucknall teenager Freya Christie, who won fresh admirers with her debut displays at the Australian Tennis Open.
BIG SHOT -- Hucknall teenager Freya Christie, who won fresh admirers with her debut displays at the Australian Tennis Open.

England’s cricket team might have made a mess of their winter in Australia.

But not so tennis teenager Freya Christie, of Hucknall, who has given her burgeoning career another major boost.

Freya, who only turned 16 in November, made her debut at the prestigious Australian Open in scorching-hot Melbourne.

And although she was knocked out in the opening round of the girls’ singles, she reached the quarter-finals of the girls’ doubles, losing only in the third set, 10-8, to the number one seeds.

“I was up at 5 am watching the live scores come through on the Internet,” said Freya’s excited mum, Carol Bloomer, from their home on Beardall Street.

“They won the first set 6-3 and after losing the second 6-1, the final set was so close.

“At the end, Freya was a bit annoyed but it was still a good achievement, and the month she has spent in Australia has been a great experience for her.”

Freya linked up with highly-rated 16-year-old Latvian Jelana Ostapenko for the doubles event and won fresh admirers for her performances.

In the First Round, they swept aside Australian duo Danielle McIntyre and Michelle Pits 6-2, 6-2. And then they booked their ticket to the last eight with a stunning 6-4, 6-2 triumph over the number-six seeds, Kamonwan Buayam (Thailand) and Sara Tomic (Australia).

Facing the top seeds in the quarters brought back memories for Freya of her debut appearance at Wimbledon last summer. For she was beaten there by the world’s number one under-18, Belinda Bencic, of Switzerland, in the First Round of the girls’ singles.

This time, Freya and Ostapenko gave Anhelina Kalinina (Ukraine) and Elizaveta Kulichkova (Russia) a real scare before succumbing at the end of the three-set marathon.

Success in the doubles made up for disappointment in the singles in Melbourne for Freya, who was surprisingly knocked out by her former doubles partner, Lizette Cabrera, of Australia.

In the International Tennis Federation world rankings for under-18s, Freya was ranked 85th and Cabrera 149th. And what’s more, the Hucknall girl had defeated the Aussie 16-year-old 7-5, 6-0 in a warm-up tournament Down Under only a week earlier.

But backed by her home crowd, Cabrera exacted revenge with a straight-sets 7-5, 6-3 success.

“Freya said she froze -- and doesn’t really know why,” explained mum Carol.

“She’s normally such an aggressive, attacking player, but she couldn’t get any weight behind her shots.

“Her coach, Mark Taylor, wasn’t there, and she couldn’t relax or get going. She was disappointed with herself.”

Nevertheless, the very fact that Freya was selected by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) as one of only three girls to represent Britain at the Australian Open signifies the fine progress she is making.

“Everything was paid for,” said Carol. “It shows that the LTA believe in her and in her ability. It gave her a chance to get used to big tournaments.”

Freya is off on her travels again in a few weeks’ time when she competes in three major tournaments in Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines.

She might have to miss the French Open in May because of her GCSE exams. But she is determined to make Wimbledon again in the summer.