Thursday, 18 June 2009

Spotlight On ... Viktoriya Kutuzova

Back in 2005, Viktoriya Kutuzova was ranked # 76 in the world, but slipped outside of the world's top 100 in subsequent years. As a fourteen-year-old, she was given a wildcard into WTA Los Angeles in 2003 and went on to reach the third round (l. to 4th seed Ai Sugiyama). The 2004 season was less eventful as she failed to progress beyond the first round of any of her WTA tournaments and played predominantly on the ITF circuit. In 2005, she was given a wildcard into WTA Indian Wells and reached the fourth round (l. to # 1 Lindsay Davenport). Although she failed to get past round one after that and lost in qualifying on several occasions, she entered the top 100 for the first time in her career that season after winning two singles titles (Deauville and Poitiers) on the ITF circuit.

The 2006 season saw her establish herself more with second rounds or better at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open. She also won another singles title on the ITF circuit (defending her Deauville title from the previous season). 2007 was less successful as she only notched up one second round appearance and was largely active on the ITF circuit.

In 2008, she won another ITF singles title, but it wasn't until 2009 that things started to get back on track again. In April 2009, she reached the third round of WTA Charleston (d. 11th seed Alona Bondarenko; l. to Elena Vesnina), reached the semi-finals of WTA Strasbourg as a qualifier (d. 5th seed Tamarine Tanasugarn; l. to eventual champion, Aravane Rezai) and the second round of Roland Garros (l. to Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez in three sets), and qualified for Wimbledon.

Spotlight On ... Grega Zemlja

Grega Zemlja probably isn't a name that is too familiar to the majority of tennis fans, but the Slovenian made a bit of a name for himself when he booked his place in the Wimbledon main draw today. Coming into the qualifying competition, he was ranked # 174, just below the career-high ranking of # 165 that he achieved in May 2009.

The 22-year-old was been playing predominantly on the Challenger circuit in 2009, although he was attempted to qualify for ATP tournaments in Sydney (l. to Frank Dancevic) and the Australian Open (l. to Dudi Sela). On the Challenger circuit, his best results have come in Burnie (l. to Brydan Klein in the final after beating another Aussie, Peter Luczak, in the semi-finals), and St Brieuc (l. to Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in the quarter-finals). Just prior to Wimbledon qualifying, he lost in the second qualifying round in Halle (l. to German Tobias Kamke, after struggling past Pavel Snobel in three tight sets in the previous round).

Spotlight On ... Klara Zakopalova

Now ranked # 100 in the world, Klara Zakopalova (formerly Klara Koukalova) was ranked # 27 back in March 2006. In her career, the Czech has won two WTA singles titles ('s-Hertogenbosch and Portoroz) and six ITF titles. Despite reaching her career-high ranking in 2005, the 2006 season saw her fail to finish in the top 100 for the first time in four years and she did not string two wins together for the whole of the 2006 season. She refound some form in 2007 with a semi-final showing in Prague and a quarter-final appearance in Bogota and the Tokyo Open, along with one ITF title. 2008 was another top 100 finish with a final in Vina del Mar and a semi-final in Estoril.

Klara's 2009 season got off a rocky start with first round exits in Auckland (l. to Edina Gallovits), Sydney (l. to Daniela Hantuchova as a qualifier), the Australian Open (l. to Samantha Stosur), Monterrey (l. to Vania King) , Indian Wells (l. to Kristina Barrois) and Miami (l. to Tathiana Garbin). She reached second rounds in Bogota (l. to Edina Gallovits again) and Acapulco (l. to 4th seed Iveta Benesova) but did not win back-to-back matches until April, when she reached the quarter-finals in Marbella (l. to 5th seed Carla Suarez Navarro after defeating top seeded Serena Williams). That was followed by early exits in Barcelona (l. to Magdalena Rybarikova) and Fes (l. to top seed and eventual champion Anabel Medina Garrigues) before securing a quarter-final spot in Warsaw (beat 3rd seed Jie Zheng for her sixth win over a top 20 player; l. to Daniela Hantuchova ). At Roland Garros, she pushed Serena Williams hard in their second round match before bowing out in three sets.

On the grass, Klara booked her place in the main draw of Wimbledon after notching up three wins in the qualifying tournament.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Spotlight On ... Magdalena Rybarikova

Currently ranked just outside the top 50, Magdalena Rybarikova is one of the many rising stars on the WTA circuit. The young Slovakian won two titles on the ITF circuit in 2008 (in Greece and Russia) and is a member of the Slovak Fed Cup team. She reached a career-high ranking of # 46 in February 2009, and is currently sitting just below that.

On the WTA circuit, her best results of 2008 included a semi-final in WTA Tashkent (l. to 3rd seed Sorana Cirstea), reaching the third round of the US Open (l. to 15th seed Patty Schnyder). Elsewhere, Magdalena has notched up second rounds in WTA events in Prague (retired against Vera Zvonareva) , Barcelona (l. to Stephanie Cohen-Aloro), Budapest (l. to eventual champion Alize Cornet) and Roland Garros (l. to eventual finalist Dinara Safina), although she was a quarter-finalist in WTA Prague back in 2006. Earlier in 2008, she qualified for WTA Acapulco (l. to 6th seed Yvonne Meuberger) but lost in the opening round of the main draw.

On the ITF circuit, she reached a quarter-final in Bratislava (Slovakia), and semi-finals in Athens (Greece) and Monterrey (Mexico). In the latter tournament, she beat top seed Yanina Wickmayer and 4th seed Vania King.

So far in 2009, she has reached semi-finals in Hobart (l. to Iveta Benesova, but beat top seed Flavia Pennetta in the second round) and Pattaya City (beating 2nd seed Caroline Wozniacki in the quarter-finals before bowing out to Sania Mirza), but there have also been more than a few first and second round exits. Things got back on track with a second round showing at Roland Garros (l. to 5th seed Jelena Jankovic).

Magdalena won her first WTA title in Birmingham in June (d. Li Na in straight sets in the final) to demonstrate some grass court credentials ahead of Wimbledon.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Spotlight On ... Naomi Broady

Currently ranked # 365 in the world (a few places below her career high ranking), Naomi Broady qualified for WTA Birmingham this week with wins over the higher ranked Meng Yuan and Abigail Spears. The British teenager is noted for her big serve and possesses a game that is well suited to the grass courts.

Prior to Birmingham, Naomi's tennis has been confined largely to the ITF circuit. She has won one ITF singles title so far in 2009 (the first of her career so far), and one ITF doubles titles (three in her career so far). Her sole career ITF title came in Grenoble (France) on a hard court, where she won the title without dropping a set, beating 5th seed Galanina Varvina and top seed Youlia Fedossova en route. Elsewhere on the ITF circuit, her other best results of 2009 have been a semi-final showing in Bath and quarter-finals in Glasgow, Sibenik, Hvar and Bol. The latter three results were on clay. In the week before qualifying for Birmingham, Naomi lost to # 99 Maria Elena Camerin in two tight sets in the first round of an ITF event in Nottingham.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Spotlight On ... Sorana Cirstea

She isn't a new name to the WTA Tour as such, but Sorana Cirstea caused a notable upset at Roland Garros yesterday when she defeated Jelena Jankovic in three sets. The Romanian is currently ranked # 41, but looks set to better her career-high ranking of # 36 when Roland Garros is over.

Sorana's 2009 season got off to a shaky start with early exits in Syndey (l. to 2nd seed Dinara Safina), the Australian Open (l. to Melinda Czink), Paris (l. to Nathalie Dechy), Dubai (l. to 12th seed Dominika Cibulkova), Indian Wells (l. to Elena Vesnina) and Miami (l. to Mariya Koryttseva). Things picked up in April with a semi-final in Marbella (l. to 5th seed Carla Suarez Navarro, but beat 3rd seed Kaia Kanepi in the quarter-finals). That result was followed by a quarter-final appearance in Estoril (l. to Yanina Wickmayer). Roland Garros became her real break-through tournament though as it was the first time in her career that she has reached the quarter-final of a Grand Slam. The win over Jankovic was her second consecutive win over a top 10 player after Caroline Wozniacki was dispatched in the previous round.