Donna Vekic believes Jelena Ostapenko’s remarkable French Open triumph has confirmed that anyone – no matter their age – can become a Grand Slam champion on the women’s tour. Vekic knows all about being the next big thing to break into the sport having won the Malaysian Open as a 17-year-old and reaching a career high No.62 ranking in 2013 before finding that the sport can knock you down as well as lift you up.
The Croatian is now all of 20-years-old, the same age as Ostapenko, who earned all the headlines with that Paris triumph which makes her one of the sport’s hottest names heading into Wimbledon. Vekic and every other young player in the women’s locker room took heart from Ostapenko’s win and with Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova both out of The Championships, there is an opportunity for a new name to be added to honours board as the women’s champion.
Vekic, currently ranked No.70, set up a Nottingham Open semi-final against the experienced Czech Lucie Safarova by defeating Maria Sakkari, of Greece, 6-2, 6-3 and said:” Jelena’s win was incredible and it shows everyone can do it because women’s tennis is so open. To win a Grand Slam at any age is amazing and if it is at 20 or 30 I will take it!
“It has been difficult to live up to the expectation after I came into the game and I have had some ups and downs in my career. I am still only 20 and have been up and down and I cannot say it has been easy. I have been through everything and I feel as if I am strong mentally and have improved a lot of things in my game. There are still things to improve in my game but I know what it takes to get there and hopefully I can keep this momentum going.
“When I was playing those finals when I was 16 and won the title at 17, it was more about me putting myself under pressure by thinking I had to win every tournament. Some other girls came along and got top ten and I was thinking 'what am I doing wrong?' but I wasn’t doing anything wrong. It just took time and I had to fall to get back up. I think it will make me stronger.
“I have had three really good matches of two sets here at Nottingham and I am very happy. I have always played well on grass and I came into this part of the season with very good confidence and I am mentally stronger.”
Safarova, who is following a gluten free diet these days, had to dig deep to overcome Tsvetana Pironkova, of Bulgaria, 6-3, 0-6, 6-4 in a match that took 1hr 50mins to complete on centre court.
Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova remembers taking on British No.1 Johanna Konta two years ago in the Nottingham Open when she was facing a player who had been given a wild card into the event and then knocked her out in straight sets. Konta is now the world No.8 and will face Rybarikova in her first Nottingham semi-final after a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Australia’s Ashleigh Barty.
Rybarikova said: "When I first played her at this tournament she was a wild card and she beat me. Now, she is top 10 and is a really great player and will be favourite. I will try to surprise her. I am so happy to win in two sets because of all the tennis I have played and this is like a dream after my injuries last year. I am coming close to the top 100 now and in February I was in the 500’s – it is amazing.”
The British pairing of Laura Robson and Jocelyn Rae a came from a set down to beat Darija Jurak and Anastasia Rodionova 4-6, 6-3, 10-7 to advance to the women’s doubles semi-final, where they will face fellow Brit Heather Watson and her partner Christina McHale of the USA. British men’s interest ended when Israel’s Dudi Sela defeat Lloyd Glasspool 6-2, 7-6(4). Sela now meets Romania’s Marius Copil in the semi-final with Australia’s Sam Groth up against Italy’s Thomas Fabbiano in the other final four match.
QUOTE OF THE DAY;
“ We have two different careers and I hope I won’t be that old when I win my first Grand Slam!”* Donna Vekic on the influence of Grand Slam winning boyfriend Stan Wawrinka.
*Stan was the grand old age of 28 when he won the 2014 Australian Open!