Apologies if this has been posted before.
Hantuchova on her way back
By Karen Lyon
January 9, 2005
Just two years ago, Daniela Hantuchova looked to have the tennis world at her feet. The Slovak was the darling of the circuit, possessing not only model good looks but a game to match. The right-hander was challenging in grand slam events and was heading to the top of the rankings.
It all peaked in early 2003, when her ranking hit No. 5. She had reached the quarter-finals at the Australian Open, after doing the same thing at the previous US Open and Wimbledon tournaments. Then, according to Hantuchova, one of her worst personal traits got hold of her game and it all fell apart.
"I think it's mainly impatience," she says. "I just want to do so well, so quickly, that I put so much pressure on myself and sometimes it's hard to deal with it, and when I start to miss a few shots, I start to lose my confidence a little bit."
Form quickly deserted her and Hantuchova's ranking plummeted from No. 5 to 54. After three consecutive quarter-final appearances in the majors, she could not make it past the second round. The low point, she says, came at Wimbledon in 2003.
Playing against the 81st-ranked Asagoe Shinobu in the second round, she lost the match 12-10 in the final set and was in tears. Her on-court pain started to affect her happiness away from the game.
"You always try not to connect those two things," she said. "You try to do your best on the court and then to forget about it in your normal life. But it's not easy. It's easy to say but so hard to do. Of course there were times I was upset, even though I wasn't playing tennis because I knew there was something missing. I wanted so badly to do well that of course it affected my normal life, too."
It would take an entire year before her form returned. A win over top seed Amelie Mauresmo at Eastbourne last year put her into a final for the first time in two years. She lost to the eventual US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova but it kick-started her confidence.
The Monte Carlo resident says hard work and greater maturity have turned around her fortunes in the past 12 months. Last year when she came to Australia, her confidence was shattered and illness had led to a dramatic loss of weight. In 2005, her world is totally different.
"I can't even compare them. I mean, I feel like I am totally different, not only as a player but as a person, too. I am just enjoying everything so much more and I think I have learnt a lot in the past 12 months. I feel much more confident. I'm really pleased with the way I have been hitting the ball . . . Everything seems to be in place now," Hantuchova said.
The 21-year-old believes that finally, after six full years on the circuit, she understands the pressures of international tennis.
"I think I am more prepared to handle them better and more aware of what it takes to get where I want to be and then obviously what it take to stay there. I think I have matured in the last 12 months and, especially mentally, I think I am much tougher than I used to be."
Hantuchova, now ranked 32, has much to look forward to this season, not the least that she will partner the legendary Martina Navratilova in doubles for the entire season. She expects to learn much from arguably the greatest female player of all time. Still, after her recent ups and downs, Hantuchova refuses to set any goals for herself.
"I am not trying to set up any goals or where I want to be by the end of the year. I just want to play every match the best way I can and I will see what happens this year . . . for me, the most important thing is to make sure that I always give my best."