2014/07/24

Against The Odds, Croatia’s Donna Vekic Makes Birmingham Final

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By Tumaini Carayol

(June 15, 2013) BIRMINGHAM, UK – Before the AEGON Classic tournament’s inception, the odds on offer suggested nothing of what would follow. 16-1 for Daniela Hantuchova, 33-1 for Magdalena Rybarikova, 100-1 for Donna Vekic, and another 100-1.

Not only were those odds defied and beaten, they were brutally maimed as all four soared into the final four spots on offer. Despite that, the results themselves too had a curiously coherent logic about them. Donna Vekic, the young Croatian star, may still be a few weeks shy of her 17th birthday, but she has already proven her credentials in reaching last year’s Tashkent final. Daniela Hantuchova conversely carries with her a wealth of grasscourt experience and although she has struggled, at least a brief turn in fortunes was always a possibility. Meanwhile, the other two, though generally anonymous elsewhere, have seen great success on the grass of Birmingham that seems to perfectly suit their games.

The matches were finely poised, and they delivered. The youngster and one of the two tournament specialists, Magdalena Rybarikova, came first. Three rain-splattered sets later, it was Vekic who triumphed. Though there were nerves, delays, disappointing play and even impressive play, the impression Vekic left was one of a teenager mature beyond her years; a cliche, but one that rang true.

Naturally, her monumental achievement was greeted not with questions about her performance, the manner in which she defied her nerves at the end – unleashing a blinding backhand down-the-line winner to steal the match – or even her age. Rather, it focused on whether she “felt” British, “glamor” and “Sharapova” – the latter two seemingly mutually exclusive in the eyes of many. The teenager was authoritative in both replies – a booming ‘no’ to the question of her nationality and a similarly negative response to the Sharapova comparisons. However, the enthusiasm which greeted the question of glamour and fashion side to WTA superstardom was very interesting.

“No, you know, I’m 100 per cent Croatian and I always will be,” she asserted.” I play for the Fed Cup team and we do have an amazing Fed Cup team and hopefully we can win it, maybe even on grass.”

“That’s a very nice comparison, but we’re very different, you know
(Sharapova) has her career and I have my career, and you know, I don’t
really…

“It’s nice to know, you know, but I’d have to win Wimbledon this year to win it at 17, so, you know. Hopefully I can do well but I don’t think that’s possible at the moment.”

Joining Vekic in the final was Daniela Hantuchova with a vaguely similar score of 5-7, 6-1, 6-4. Despite all the contrasts in age and experience, something about the pair of victories struck a cool symmetry. Much like Croat who needed a long moment to compose herself after after an emotional victory, there were tears in the veteran’s eyes after she clinched the victory and returned to the final in what, by comparison to her resume, was quite a minor victory. But as she continues to battle the effects of age and the wear-and-tear of 15 years on the tour, any success is almost as sweet as the first.

Tumaini Carayol covering the AEGON Classic in Birmingham for Tennis Panorama News. He is a contributing writer at On The Baseline, and writes about professional tennis at his site Foot Fault. Follow his tournament updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.

 

AEGON CLASSIC
Birmingham, England
June 10-16, 2013
$235,000/International
Grass/Outdoors

Results – Saturday, June 15, 2013
Singles - Semifinals
Donna Vekic (CRO) d. (16) Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) 76(5) 16 63
Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) d. (Q) Alison Riske (USA) 57 61 64

Singles - Quarterfinals
(Q) Alison Riske (USA) d. (5) Sabine Lisicki (GER) 76(2) 26 64

Doubles - Semifinals
(3) Barty/Dellacqua (AUS/AUS) d. Barthel/Mladenovic (GER/FRA) 63 62

Order Of Play - Sunday, June 16, 2013
Ann Jones Centre Court (from 13.00hrs)
1. Singles Final: Donna Vekic vs. Daniela Hantuchova
2. Date-Krumm/Parra Santonja vs. Hantuchova/Hsieh
3. [Date-Krumm/Parra Santonja or Hantuchova/Hsieh] vs. Black/Erakovic
4. Doubles Final: Barty/Dellacqua vs. [Semifinal Winners]

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