Comebacking Stevenson encouraged in loss
March 9, 2006
AP - Mar 9, 7:46 pm EST
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) -- Alexandra Stevenson was encouraged by her play in a 7-6 (1), 6-2 loss to Croatia's Ivana Lisjak in the first round of the Pacific Life Open on Thursday.
Stevenson has spent the past 17 months recuperating from surgery to repair a torn labrum in her right shoulder. She was a semifinalist at Wimbledon as a WTA Tour rookie in 1999 and ranked No. 18 in the world at the close of the 2002 season.
Her ranking now at No. 617, Stevenson was given a wild card into this event, and she said her first set against Lisjak was probably the most competitive she's played in two years.
But at 5-6 she felt pain in her rebuilt shoulder, and after losing the tiebreaker, she was advised to quit by the tour trainer. Instead, she won the opening two games of the second set before Lisjak took command.
"I haven't played a set like that in two years and I pretty much haven't played tennis like that," Stevenson said, an ice pack taped to her shoulder. "I guess the shoulder got fatigued and then it strained a little bit. It's just bad luck."
Stevenson, 25, cried briefly when she talked about what it felt like to walk on the court and hear the crowd cheer for her. She is 0-5 this year, the previous four losses coming in minor-league Challenger tournaments, but she is convinced that brighter days are ahead.
"I'm getting close," she said. "Today I played some good points and I felt like I belonged on the court for the first time (since the surgery). I see each day progressively getting better.
"I think I'm hitting the ball better than I ever have been and I think I'm smarter on the court. It's just a matter of putting it all together and getting my serve back. Everything else has come back progressively better each week."
Lisjak will meet No. 6 seed Flavia Pennetta in the second round, which begins Friday along with the opening round of the men's tournament.
Others advancing were Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain, Stephanie Foretz and Severine Bremond of France, Viktoriya Kutuzova of the Ukraine, Na Li of China, and Bethanie Mattek and Vania King of the U.S.
How her priorities have changed.....