Jugic-Salkic pays her dues
Mervana Jugic-Salkic needed to find $US175 ($NZ262) to hastily join the Women's Tennis Association on Saturday.
Ranked somewhere off the radar screen, the Bosnia-Herzegovinan player was not a WTA member when she turned up for the ASB Classic doubles final.
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She was, therefore, ineligible to pick up her $US3250 share of the winners' cheque after she and her Croatian partner Jelena Kostanic beat the top seeds and world No 1 doubles pairing of Paola Suarez, of Argentina, and Spain's Virginia Ruano Pascual 7-6 (8-6) 3-6 6-1 in the final.
Jugic-Salkic, 24, happily paid her dues to tournament supervisor Georgina Clarke, then sat back to savour the greatest moment of her tennis career.
It was an amazing story for two players from the war-torn Baltic.
"It is our first tournament together," Kostanic, 22, said.
"I think were the last team to get into the draw.
"We nearly went out in our first match. We were match point down, after being a set and 1-4 down, but got up to win in three. Now this."
Jugic-Salkic said the volatile nature of her home nation had made it difficult to progress as a tennis player.
"I tried to keep playing tennis during the war but it was not easy," she said.
"For the past nine months I have lived in Zagreb. But, yes, I consider myself a Bosnian."
In a country where sport is the domain of a favoured few, she is regarded as their second most popular sportswoman behind a gold medal-winning karate hero.
The new-found combination play Fed Cup for their respective countries, with Jugic-Salkic, who is ranked No 134, some distance ahead of her teammates, who come in at 599 and 990.
"My coach wants me to play both singles," she said with a laugh."
She also laughed when asked how she would spend her prizemoney.
"I don't know. It is a new experience for me," she said.
"Jelena will show me."
Unlike Jugic-Salkic, Kostanic at least ranks a decent mention in the WTA guide.
Playing out of the same Split club who list former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic as their greatest member, Kostanic had won four WTA doubles titles, with different partners, but none since 2002.
"People from our countries have similar personalities," Kostanic said of her partner.
"On court we speak Croatian -- our languages are very similar."