No. 6 Domachowska reaches semifinals
By Jim Masilak
February 24, 2006
These days, it's both fashionable and practical for aspiring young tennis players from former Eastern bloc countries to move away from home in their pursuit of excellence.
Better weather, better facilities, better coaching. Those are a few of the reasons players top players like Maria Sharapova, Daniella Hantuchova and Nicole Vaidisova, family members in tow, leave Moscow and Prague behind for places like Bradenton, Fla.
For Marta Domachowska, that wasn't exactly an option.
The only Polish female ranked among the top 200 players in the world, Domachowska developed into her country's top players despite its shortcomings in terms of sunshine, instruction and, perhaps most crucially, on-court success.
"I was told a lot of times I should move if I wanted to play," said the 20-year-old Domachowska, who advanced to the semifinals of the Cellular South Cup on Thursday with a 6-4, 6-4 quarterfinal win over American Laura Granville at The Racquet Club. "But for me it was too tough to move from Poland. I don't know if my family would change their whole lives for me to play tennis."
Domachowska therefore remained in Warsaw.
While she has had a sponsor since she was 11, and was fortunate to spend parts of some winters training in Spain and Italy -- her father worked at ING, a prominent financial services firm, and her mother owns a jewelry shop -- a lack of sophisticated tennis knowledge at home often left her bemused and bewildered.
"There are a lot of good players in Poland," said Domachowska, the No. 6 seed at the CSC and the 51st-ranked player in the world. "The biggest problem is we don't have any academies ... and of course I can't practice in the winter because it's minus-20.
"We also have a problem with the coaches. Nobody before had good players so they don't have experience. A fitness coach is very important, and I have had a lot of fitness coaches because they didn't know the drills for tennis players. If I had endurance coach, I was running miles every day. They just don't have experience.
"But what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
Like the expectations that come with being the top women's player at home by some distance.
"It's really tough for me. All the people and press in Poland are only interested in me," Domachowska said. "I lose one match and people and media are like, I'm through.
"Of course, when you win it's really good, but when you lose they say it's all over."
Domachowska, who has yet to drop a set in three matches at the CSC, eased past the fourth-seeded Granville Thursday to reach her fifth career semifinal. She has contested two finals -- Seoul in 2004, Strasbourg last year -- but is still looking for her first title.
A crisis of confidence toward the end of last season has given way to renewed self-belief thanks in part to three successive and impressive wins.
"It's really exciting," Domachowska said of booking her place in the semis. "If I have to be honest, two months ago they were writing at home that it was over for me and that I won't play any more. But I think I am starting to play good."
In today's semifinals Domachowska will face Jill Craybas, one of two over-30 Americans to win quarterfinal matches Thursday.
The eighth-seeded Craybas, 31, defeated fellow American Lilia Osterloh, 6-4, 6-1, to advance. At 1-1 in the second set, Craybas saved three break points before going on to win.
"I don't mind that style of play," Craybas said. "I'm used to grinding."
Amy Frazier, the No. 7 seed, had to dig deep to hold off the challenge of Shenay Perry in the day's second all-American quarterfinal match. Frazier, at 33 the oldest player in the field, took a third-set tiebreaker to win 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(3).
"I knew it was gonna be a good match because she's a tough player to play against," Frazier said of Perry. "She can do so many things with the ball and go from defense to offense so quick.
"I'm very happy with the way I played today." Frazier will meet third-seeded Sofia Arvidsson in today's semifinal round. Arvidsson beat Danish teenager Caroline Wozniacki in Thursday's fourth quarterfinal, 7-5, 6-4.