Rodionova to play for Aust Open wildcard on 30th birthday
ARINA Rodionova can gift herself a spot in the Australian Open main draw when she takes on doubles partner Storm Sanders in the wildcard play-off final on her 30th birthday.
Rodionova progressed to Sunday's decider when she overcame Belinda Woolcock in a hard-fought semi-final 6-2 4-6 6-2 in cool conditions at Melbourne Park on Saturday.
"It would definitely be a great birthday present, but I'll try not to think about that or I'll be very disappointed if I don't win," Rodionova said.
"I don't think I played my best tennis (in the semi-final) unfortunately but I'm just glad I could turn it around and get back on track in the third.
"I'm in the second week of pre-season, so I'm hoping to be playing much better in another three weeks."
Rodionova, currently No.205 in the world rankings, has played in the main draw at the Australian Open three times, losing in the first round on each occasion.
Fellow Aussie Sanders, who teamed with Rodionova at last month's Taipei Open, is also aiming for her fourth main draw appearance at Melbourne Park, having never made it past the first round.
Ranked 376th in the world, the Western Australian won an ITF World Tour event in Adelaide last month after returning to singles tennis following a serious shoulder injury that led her to take a two-year break.
"It's only my fourth tournament back so to be in a final for a wildcard for the Australian Open is pretty exciting," Sanders told AAP.
"I wasn't actually sure if I was going to play singles again but I played doubles until November this year and I was hitting the ball well and felt fit and healthy.
"I thought I may as well give it a go and see how it goes. I'm really enjoying it."
Queenslander John-Patrick Smith will take on third seed Max Purcell (NSW) in the men's final on Sunday.