March 27, 2010

The Pending Rise of Polona Hercog

I think I've found a new favorite player on the WTA Tour.

The nineteen-year-old (her birthday if four days before mine, so I like her even more) from Slovenia is really beginning to hit her stride. Though she's won a handful of ITF Circuit titles over the past few years, she's only now making a splash in the big leagues, reaching the finals in Acapulco where she took a set from champion Venus Williams, and on Thursday getting past seeded Aleksandra Wozniak to make the third round in Miami.

Just about a year ago Hercog won her first match in the main draw of a Tour event, defeating Stephanie Cohen-Aloro in the first round of Marbella after making it through three qualifying rounds. Later that month she made the quarters in Fes by taking out seventh seeded Roberta Vinci. Then her first round win over Alisa Kleybanova at Roland Garros helped bring her into the top hundred.

A 13-7 record this year has propelled her to number fifty-one in the world, a position in which she keeps some good company -- Patty Schnyder is only a few steps ahead of her and Birmingham champ Magdalena Rybarikova is a spot below. Also close by is Polona's next opponent in Miami, Switzerland's Timea Bacsinszky, another youngster who pulled off an upset of eighth seeded Na Li to make the third round. Polona lost their only prior meeting last year in Istanbul, but she's clearly on the upswing -- there's no reason to believe she shouldn't get the win.

There is plenty to support Hercog's becoming a force in the women's sport. At six foot, 154 pounds, she's tall and svelte -- her height and strength make her fully capable of firing off a couple of rocket aces in a match. She's also developing a solid net game, rebounding from her Acapulco title loss to take the doubles championship with Barbora Zahlavova Strycova. By the time we get to the summer Slam season, she could shoot right up the rankings.

Polona takes the court today against Bacsinszky. If she wins she'll earn a fourth round spot against either Yanina Wickmayer or Petra Martic -- yet another pair of largely uninitiated -- or at least young -- talent. Advancing this far in a Premier event like Miami would easily be the highlight of her short career, but I feel she'll soon be a staple at these Tier 1 tournaments.

And with another win or two here, hopefully everyone will know it.

1 comment:

Kavitha said...

Ah well. Polona lost today, 6-2, 6-2 to Bascinszky. But hopefully she'll rebound well and not make a liar out of me!