Hunter’s ‘back to work’ Mumbai moment inspires new high

Murray Wenzel |

Storm Hunter has knuckled down overseas since her run to the Australian Open third round.
Storm Hunter has knuckled down overseas since her run to the Australian Open third round.

Storm Hunter was the “talk of Melbourne” one week and playing in front of two people in India the next.

But, for the Billie Jean King Cup squad spearhead, it was a simple reminder she was “back to work” on the road to the world’s top 100.

“I left after the Australian Open and it’s been non-stop since, but even some of my friends don’t realise that,” Hunter told AAP.

“They say, ‘Oh, you must get a break after Melbourne’. And I’m like, ‘No. Literally, this is just the start’.”

The year-ending world No.1 doubles player has followed up her inspiring singles run from Australian Open qualifying to the third round with more good tennis to hit a new career-high mark of world No.114.

Storm Hunter
Storm Hunter has earned a career-high singles ranking as she eyes a spot in the top 100. (James Ross/AAP PHOTOS)

Two top-100 scalps at last week’s Miami Open took the 29-year-old’s win-loss record to 14-5 this year ahead of a timely return to Australia.

The Rockhampton product will lead Australia’s Billie Jean King Cup squad in a finals qualifying tie against Mexico in Brisbane from next Friday.

“Melbourne was very draining; emotionally, mentally and physically,” she said.

“I’ve never had that much attention on me and it was really nice.

“I’m older, been through it all, those hard times and I was like, ‘This is cool, I’ll embrace it, because it doesn’t happen every day.

“It’s an adjustment going from being the talk of Melbourne to playing a 125 (second-tier) event in front of two people and my coach in India.

“It’s easy to have a lull after a high like that and I’m so proud in the last eight weeks I’ve consistently played well.

“It was ‘back to work’ in Mumbai, because to get into the top 100, top 80 I need a good year, not just a few good weeks.”

Hunter reckons her serve, ball-striking and physicality have improved, while she said her higher singles ranking has offered more opportunities to qualify for bigger tournaments, making it easier to juggle with her doubles duties.

“My level’s higher than I thought it was and the sky is the limit now,” she said.

“It’s just staying healthy and in a good mindset … trying to problem solve and not get annoyed when things aren’t going your way, especially at events where nobody is watching.”

Australia hasn’t played a home Billie Jean King Cup tie since 2019, when it was still known as the Fed Cup.

Newly-installed captain Sam Stosur joined Ash Barty to lead Australia to its first final in 26 years.

Fellow feel-good stories in fit-again Daria Saville and Arina Rodionova – at 34 the oldest player to crack the top 100 earlier this year – give Stosur options.

Doubles ace Ellen Perez and teenage talent Taylah Preston have also been included for the April 12-13 tie at Pat Rafter Arena.

“Taylah’s been playing some really good tennis too; it’s a really hard decision, probably the hardest we’ve had as a team for a while,” Hunter said of who will contest the singles.

“When they did the draw it was like, ‘Please be at home’.

“It’s the dream and I haven’t had that opportunity, only being around the team in recent years.

“It’s a different level of pressure, excitement and nerves.”