Smith, Rodionova clinch Aust Open berths

Arina Rodionova has booked her place in the main draw of next month's Australian Open.
Arina Rodionova has booked her place in the main draw of next month's Australian Open.

John-Patrick Smith and Arina Rodionova will boost the host nation's presence in the 2020 Australian Open singles main draws after upstaging younger opponents to clinch their respective wildcard playoff finals.

It was third time lucky for Smith, the loser of finals in 2015 and 2017, who breezed past third seed Max Purcell 6-3 6-4 6-1 at Melbourne Park on Sunday.

The 30-year-old Queenslander will make his second appearance in the men's singles draw, and first in seven years.

"I've had a couple of close qualifying last-round losses here, so it's a great feeling to get back there," Smith said.

"I'll go back and start preparing for the AO. The ultimate goal is to do a couple of rounds here, so that would be great."

Smith, who reached the 2019 mixed doubles final at Melbourne Park with Western Australia's Astra Sharma, was dealt a first-round singles exit at his home slam by Portugal's Joao Sousa in 2013.

But the current world No.311 feels primed for the 2020 edition, having dropped just one set in four matches (to fourth-seed Aleksander Vukic) at the wildcard playoffs.

"When I came into 2013 I was kind of struggling with a little bit of an injury a couple of weeks before, so this has really been the best preparation for it," Smith said.

"Getting used to the courts and I know they're going to resurface them, but getting out here, getting used to the environment and getting the whole atmosphere under my belt has been really good."

Earlier on Sunday, Rodionova gifted herself the perfect 30th birthday present by booking a spot in the women's singles draw for the fourth time with a tense 6-4 7-5 win over doubles partner Storm Sanders.

Rodionova conceded nerves got the better of her at times, but managed to produce the goods in the big moments.

A forehand passing shot down the line earned the world No.205 the sole break of the first set.

She broke Sanders' serve again in a marathon 11th game of the second set, which lasted almost 15 minutes.

"I just fought every point and that's all you can do against big hitters like this," Rodionova said.

"I was chasing the ball and got a little bit lucky here and there."

Sanders and Purcell are still able to reach the respective women's and men's main draws through qualifying tournaments in January.

Australian Associated Press