Saturday, 21 June 2008

Spotlight on ... Yanina Wickmayer

Yanina Wickmayer had a breakthrough week back in June, when she reached her first WTA final at the DFS Classic, losing a heart-breaking final set tie-break to Kateryna Bondarenko. She had never previously been past the second round of a WTA event. Her successful week saw her rise to a career-high ranking of 66, and she has bettered that by four ranking places since then.

On the ITF circuit, she has won one singles title ($50K Indian Harbour Beach in the US, beating top seed Bethanie Mattek in the final) and one doubles title ($75K Torhout in Belgium, partnering Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova). She also reached the final of $50K New Delhi (l. Ekaterina Dzehalevich) and $75K Monzon (l. to Petra Kvitova but beat top seed Lilia Osterloh in the opening round), and the semi-finals of $50K Charlottesville (l. to qualifier Alexis Gordon) and $50K Surbiton (beating 2nd seed Tamarine Tanasugarn, and losing to 3rd seed Marina Erakovic). Her year to date wasn't restricted to the ITF circuit, as she reached the second round of WTA Antwerp (beat Shuai Peng but lost to 3rd seed Daniela Hantuchova) and the quarter-finals of WTA Seoul (l. to 3rd seed Kaia Kanepi). On the ITF circuit, she reached the semi-finals in Mexico shortly before the US Open.

She is a member of the Belgian Fed Cup and has wins over Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko (in Belgium's World Group II tie with the Ukraine).

Spotlight On ... Marina Erakovic

Marina Erakovic has been steadily rising up the rankings so far this year, and broke into the world’s top 50 (#49) in July 2008. She has slipped beneath that slightly since then but is still a solid top 70 player.

Born in Croatia, but living in New Zealand, the 19-year-old has won two ITF singles events this year (in Surbiton and Mildura, Australia), and reached the final in another ($25K Berri, Australia). On the WTA tour, she reached the semi-finals in Auckland (beating Ashley Harkleroad and top seed Vera Zvonareva but losing to Aravane Rezai) and Memphis (l. to 4th seed Lindsay Davenport), the third round of Miami (beating 30th seed Michaella Krajicek, before losing to 6th seed Serena Williams) and the second round of Roland Garros (beating Tathiana Garbin, before losing to 3rd seed Jelena Jankovic).

That was followed by a semi-final appearance at the DFS Classic in Birmingham (beating 6th seed Sania Mirza and 5th seed Alona Bondarenko, but losing to 12th seed and eventual champion Kateryna Bondarenko) and a second round showing at the Ordina Open in Rosmalen as a qualifier (beating Aleksandra Wozniak, before losing to 8th seed Alona Bondarenko). She also won the doubles title at the Ordina Open, partnering Holland’s Michaella Krajicek. She made her Wimbledon singles debut in 2008, and faced Krajicek in her opening match. She reached the third round before losing to Tamarine Tanasugarn, who went on to be a surprise quarter-finalist.

After a successful first half to the 2008 season, Marina’s form dipped. She suffered early exits in WTA Portoroz (l. to Camille Pin), WTA Stockholm (l. to qualifier Maria Elena Camerin), the Beijing Olympics (l. to wildcard Ayumi Morita), WTA Forest Hills (l. to Jamea Jackson), the US Open (l. to Pauline Parmentier), WTA Seoul (l. to Samantha Stosur), WTA Japan Open (l. to wildcard Ayumi Morita) and WTA Luxembourg (l. to Sara Errani).

Spotlight On ... Carla Suarez Navarro

How many of us had heard of Carla Suarez Navarro before Roland Garros began? The Spaniard was ranked 132 in the world, but her dream run through to the quarter-finals saw her ranking rise to a career-high ranking of 49 in the world. Wimbledon gave her a wildcard into the tournament, preventing the need for going through the qualifying tournament, but as a player who has had most of her success on clay, it’s debatable as to whether that was ever actually going to be the plan.

Prior to Roland Garros, her best result was a semi-final showing at WTA Acapulco (beating 7th seed Edina Gallovits but losing to Maria Emilia Salerni). She also qualified for WTA Vina Del Mar (l. to Rossana De Los Rios in round one). Other than that, she was on the ITF circuit, with quarter-finals in $25K Las Palmas (l. to qualifier Kirsten Flipkens), $25K Saint Gaudens (France) (l. to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova) and $50K Latina (Italy) (l. to 4th seed Olivia Sanchez) and a final in $25K Tenerife (l. to top seed Tzipora Obziler).

She was part of the Spanish Fed Cup team earlier this year, losing to Jie Zheng but beating Shuai Peng in straight sets. Her ranking rise is likely to make her an integral part of the Fed Cup team in coming ties.

Following on from Roland Garros, Carla reached the second round of WTA Barcelona (l. to 2nd seed Maria Kirilenko), the second round of Wimbledon ( 2nd seed Jelena Jankovic), the quarter-finals of WTA Palermo (l. to 5th seed Sara Errani) and the semi-finals of WTA Forest Hills (l. to Shuai Peng). She also represented Spain in the Fed Cup final against Russia, losing in straight sets to Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Carla kicked off 2009 in great style after stunning Venus Williams in the second round of the Australian Open. She backed that up with comfortable wins over compatriots Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez and Anabel Medina Garrigues (seeded 21st) to reach her second career Grand Slam quarter-final, which will be against 4th seed Elena Dementieva.

Click here to read Carla’s “Getting To Know…” interview on the WTA website.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Spotlight On ... Jeremy Chardy

In the first installment of the "Spotlight On..." posts, I'm turning my attention to Frenchman Jeremy Chardy. Ranked 145 in the world coming into Roland Garros, the wildcard surprised more than a few people in reaching the fourth round. His scalps included David Nalbandian and Dmitry Tursunov, before losing in three tight sets to in-form Spaniard Nicolas Almagro.

His ranking is set to take a big step in the right direction after this tournament, but as you might expect from a player ranked just inside the top 150, his year-to-date has been spent on the Challenger circuit. Prior to Roland Garros, his best result of the year was a Challenger final in Marrakesh (losing 7-6 7-6 to fellow Frenchman
Gael Monfils), along with several Challenger quarter-final showings in New Caledonia, East London and Meknes. Needless to say, Roland Garros has been a huge milestone for him, and it wil be interesting to see how he copes with the new expectations.

Jeremy broke into the top 100 following Roland Garros 2008. He reached the second round of Wimbledon and the US Open, and the quarter-finals of ATP Gstaad. Back on the Challenger circuit, he continued to rack up the wins by winning a title in Graz and reaching the quarter-finals in Segovia. Several first round exits at Challenger level followed this before he notched up a quarter-final showing at ATP Moscow (beating top 20 player,
Igor Andreev) and a second round appearance in ATP St Petersburg.

As far as his junior record goes, Chardy won the Wimbledon juniors title in 2005 and was a finalist at the US Open juniors in 2005 (losing to
Ryan Sweeting).