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'Just don't like me': Aussie No.1 whacks TA, claims vendetta over AO wildcard snub after losing qualifier

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9th January, 2024
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Arina Rodionova has unloaded on Tennis Australia, claiming a personal vendetta cost her a wildcard into her home grand slam despite being the nation’s top-ranked women’s player.

Rodionova suffered a straight-sets first-round loss in Australian Open qualifying on Tuesday, then accused the governing body of causing undue stress on players – not just her – by not being transparent and awarding the wildcards sooner.

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The 34-year-old battled back from a serious wrist injury to dominate the lower-level ITF Tour in 2023, winning 78 matches on her way to seven titles as her ranking surged from No.302 to the brink of the top 100.

But her hard-earned return to the Aussie No.1 status counted for nothing when TA handed their fifth and final discretionary wildcard last Friday to fellow Russian-born player Daria Saville.

“The only regrets I have from today is just I gave Tennis Australia something to celebrate,” Rodionova said after her 6-3 6-4 loss to lower-ranked Frenchwoman Leolia Jeanjean.

“I think they are very pleased with my result today and that’s what makes me upset.”

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Despite being the only Australian to make the second round at Wimbledon in 2017 in the proud tennis country’s worst showing at the All England Club since World War II, Rodionova reckons she’s been an outcast to TA for more than a decade.

“It started like years and years ago,” the Victorian said.

“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.

“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.

Arina Rodionova

Arina Rodionova. (Photo by Mike Owen/Getty Images)

“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.”

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Rodionova has climbed to a career-best world No. 105, but was No.112 at the time of the Open main-draw cut-off.

Ironically, after beating recent top-20 star Martina Trevisan last week at the Brisbane International, Rodionova then ousted former Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, who will play Saville in Hobart on Wednesday.

“I don’t even know how to justify the reasoning behind it,” Rodionova said.

“I had a great year. I’ve done everything I possibly could to deserve it. They just don’t like me simply.”

The wildcard snubbing has also cost Rodionova at least $94,000 – and much more if she’d made an Open run.

But the veteran baseliner insists “it’s not about the money”, despite admitting the stress of the situation threw her off her game on Tuesday.

“It’s more about the opportunity,” Rodionova said.

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“I would love to play maybe another event somewhere, in Hobart or Adelaide (this week), and it’s not even about that.

“I didn’t really have an issue with them not giving it to me. More of an issue was that they left it for so long and they pretended that they were looking at the results in Brisbane.

“I had the best result there (of the Australian women), so I don’t think they were looking at that. The decision was probably made before.

“They didn’t want to give it to me, and they should have announced it way before because it just brought such unnecessary stress to myself.

“Also to Dasha (Saville). I spoke to her, she was also obviously thinking about it, and to everyone – there is so much more involved, like all the unnecessary conversations, all the drama, and that should never happen.

Arina Rodionova celebrates defeating Sofia Kenin at the Brisbane International.

Arina Rodionova celebrates defeating Sofia Kenin at the Brisbane International. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

“It happened the same last year with other girls. They leave it until the last minute, and the girls found out on social media.

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“It’s disrespectful towards players … they should tell us a month before.”

Showing there was no place for sentiment, the retiring John Millman was also overlooked for a wildcard despite being the only Australian this century to beat Roger Federer at a grand slam.

But even Millman was more upset at Rodionova’s brushing.

“You can’t be Australia’s top-ranked player in female tennis and be overlooked,” he told the ABC.

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“Not to mention she won 78 matches last year. She’s gone out there and shown an unbelievable appetite for hard work and winning matches and she’s done it the hard way.

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“I’m a bit baffled – and I won’t be sitting on the fence with that.”

© AAP

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