Malta’s rising tennis star Helene Pellicano has soared a staggering 173 places in the WTA rankings and will start 2019 ranked 715th in the world.

The 16-year-old has now reconfirmed herself as the highest-placed Maltese player in the WTA rankings with the other Maltese in the list being Elaine Genovese who is in 902nd place.

Despite having to battle some injury problems, the 16-year-old has enjoyed a solid year in the ITF U-18 circuit, managing five wins in the 25K tournaments that are likely to propel her to a top 50 position in the junior world rankings which will be published in the coming days.

Pellicano is now looking forward to 2019 where she is expected to make her debut in the Grand Slam scene later on this month when she competes in Australian Open for Juniors.

The tournament will be played in Melbourne between January 19 and 26.

A strong run in the tournament is likely to see Pellicano soar higher in the world list.

Pellicano, who trains at the Lozano Altur Academy in Valencia, achieved her best results at the ITF Orange Bowl U-18 tournament earlier this month where she managed to reach the quarter-finals.

In the first round, she overcame American player Elizabeth Mandlik 6-3 6-2. Next up for Pellicano was another US player, Natasha Subash, and the Maltese teen recorded another straight-sets win as she prevailed 6-4 6-1.

Burundi’s Sada Nahimana awaited Pellicano in the third round and the latter again came out on top when winning a three-set thriller 6-1 2-6 6-2.

In the quarter-finals, Pellicano was up against the top seed Cori Gauff, of the US.

The American player, winner of the French Open singles title and the US Open doubles alongside Caty McNally this season, eased through 6-3 6-2.

Gauff went on to win the title when she beat Qinwen Zheng, of China 6-1 3-6 6-4.

In November, Pellicano again managed to reach the quarter-finals of the ITF Vinaros tournament.

She had the better of Adithya Karunaratne, of Hong Kong, 6-4 6-3 in the first round before seeing off Spanish player Claudia Hoste Ferrer, the second seed, 7-5 6-2.

Her run was ended by another Spaniard, Paula Arias Manjon who prevailed in three sets, 6-4 1-6 6-3.

Incidentally, Pellicano had beaten Manjon earlier this year when she overcame the Spaniard in the first round of the WTA Riba – Roja de Turia tournament 6-3

6-4. She then lost her second-round encounter against Aliona Bolsova Zadoinov, of Spain.