Bacsinszky shakes off pressure
Swiss youngster has left comparisons to Hingis behind her
By Abe Kuijl, Special to ********************
WTA Tour FROM THE PROXIMUS DIAMOND GAMES IN ANTWERP When Timea Bacsinszky enjoyed some international success in the juniors, the Swiss press were quick to name their new prodigy the next Martina Hingis.
"There are a lot of expectations," said the 18-year-old qualifier, who reached her career first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour semifinal in Antwerp after Daniela Hantuchova retired due to illness.
Bacsinszky, ranked No. 94, was leading 6-2, 4-6, 4-1 when Hantuchova felt she couldn't go on. "I couldn't catch my breath on the court," said the third seed. "I was getting tired after playing more than five seconds. Today I can't really say I was beaten."
Bacsinszky qualified her achievement as a win like any other. "I think I did everything to win it. I was the winner of this match, even if she gave up."
There are no Swiss reporters in Antwerp, but Bacsinszky told ******************** she gets plenty of attention in the press back home. "The Swiss press follows me a lot. Since I'm young, I've already been compared to Martina Hingis, because I won twice the world championships under 14. A lot of times I had the same results when I was young as she did, so that's why it's easy in Switzerland to make a comparison."
Up-and-coming players are always compared to their nation's best players. When you have stars such as Martina Hingis and Roger Federer representing your country, expectations will be extremely high, how unfair that might be.
"They wanted me at 16 to be world No. 1," said Bacsinszky. "But now I'm feeling fine with it, because even if they put the pressure on me, I'm taking it easy. I'm going step by step and it's working."
Bacsinszky finished 2006 as No. 121 and reached a career high ranking of No. 88 in 2007, before she ended the year at a disappointing No. 122. "I was feeling that I was making progress as I was playing, but the thing is I had a lot of injuries," she said. "When I had a good draw I didn't take my chance to do a good tournament. But this year it's starting really well."
Bacsinszky is a gritty player who moves well and has a fluid serve. She hits a strong two-handed backhand, but she can't really play aggressively with her forehand, which she often hits high and with a lot of spin. She likes to play defense and has a strong athletic build. Her favorite surface is clay.
During her match against Hantuchova, Bacsinszky proved she also has a great feel for the ball, hitting a number of well camouflaged drop shots. "I like those," she laughs. "My forehand is also not so bad. I know how I'm hitting it. I am disturbing the other player with my spin, so I'm happy with it. The thing is that [to become a better player] I have to be consistent when I'm returning, and also improve my fitness a little bit."
Bacsinszky has lived in Switzerland for all her life, but both her parents are Hungarian. When she grew up, she idolized Monica Seles, who announced her retirement earlier this week. "I wanted to talk with her again in Hungarian, because everyone thinks she is from Serbia, but actually she's Hungarian. This is something I want to make clear," Bacsinszky said. "I wanted to talk with her, because I talked to her when I played in the juniors of Roland Garros in 2002 when I was 13."
"She asked me for a towel in the locker room, and after she said, 'Thank you', I answered her in Hungarian. She was like [stunned] and then we talked a little bit. But I think it was one of her last tournaments, so [I never saw her again]."
After this week, Bacsinszky will surpass her career high ranking of No. 88, but she doesn't care about where she'll be at the end of the year, as long as she's improving and having fun. "I don't fix myself goals. I just want to keep going and to be better in the ranking. For sure my goals in the future are to be Top 20 or Top 10. But I don't want to put my goals too high. I just want to enjoy playing, because I really love playing and the thing is that when I retire, I want to say I did everything to be the highest as [I could be]. If I'm No. 50 or No. 5, I don't care. I just want to enjoy what I'm doing, enjoy this part of my life."
For now, Bacsinszky considers the '06 Zurich Open - where she beat then No. 15 Anastasia Myskina en route to the quarters - her most memorable tournament. It just might change after she plays Justine Henin in the semis on Saturday. "We'll see," she laughs. "You never know. She can also be shaky. She was shaky yesterday evening [against Tsvetana Pironkova]."
Henin was also far from her best in her quarterfinal against Alisa Kleybanova, but still advanced comfortably in a 6-4, 6-3 win. The other semifinal will feature Na Li and Karin Knapp. Knapp upset fourth-seed Patty Schnyder in a nail-biter 6-2, 6-7(1), 7-6(2), whereas Li ousted qualifier Sofia Arvidsson 7-5, 6-4.