Sunday, August 31, 2008

Some feel-good stories

This won't be a post about how Mardy Fish finally won a big match for me that I predicted (which is a feel-good story in its own right!) but rather about two players making their way through the draw at the Open: one who this much wasn't expected of for at least a couple of more years, and another who should've been doing this years ago.

Since this is the juicier story of the two, I'll mention the older player first! Anna-Lena Groenefeld is through to the fourth round. Who, you might ask? Well, that's what I'm here to do: Tell you! She was an up-and-comer from Germany a few years ago who was definitely on to some big things. But her career, unfortunately got derailed, in a story that I found pretty unique as it developed. She started being coached by Rafael Font de Mora, who coaches (and formerly dated) Meghann Shaughnessy. Groenefeld and Font de Mora fell out, then he proceeded to go about destroying her confidence, according to her, by criticizing her weight and seeking out her opponents to give them tips on how to beat her. Her ranking pretty much bottomed out with all that going on. She's been on a comeback tear this season, racking up ITF titles and qualifying here, where she's beaten Daniela Hantuchova and Alize Cornet so far. Glad to see such a show of resilience, and hopefully she can get back to where she used to be if not higher!

As for the young player, well, what else can you say about Kei Nishikori? The kid outgritted one of the grittiest players on tour, David Ferrer, in five sets to make it to the fourth round. I just knew that when Ferrer got to 5-all it was gonna be a wrap, but Nishikori hung tough and pulled it off. I thought when he won Delray Beach earlier this year, it was kind of a fluke, but he's definitely got the goods. It would be cool to see him continue doing so well and challenging for the top 10 in a couple of years.

(Photos: Groenefeld, Reuters; Nishikori, Getty Images)


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