Hantuchova Aims High
Hantuchova Aims High
© Harry Collins
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Daniela Hantuchova has enjoyed not inconsiderable success at Wimbledon, winning the Mixed Doubles event in 2001. However, in last year’s Championships she broke through in the singles, eventually bowing out in the Quarter-Finals to the eventual champion, Serena Williams.
5ft 11in Hantuchova is in the chasing pack behind Serena and her sister Venus, but the twenty-year-old Slovakian believes she can tap into the experience of reaching last year's Quarter‑Final.
She said: "It was a great tournament for me (she also reached the mixed doubles Final with Zimbabwean Kevin Ulyett). It was the first time I had made the final eight in the singles and I got to take on one of the top players in Serena with the fantastic crowd behind me. It was exciting and something I can learn from.
"My English coach Nigel (Sears) told me that there'd be a lot written about me in the papers (like comparisons to the glamorous image of fellow player Anna Kournikova) but I was pleased they could also talk about my tennis.
"I played Venus in the quarter‑finals of the Australian Open this year so have shown I can play against these top players. The sisters might be more experienced and be more powerful but I've got other things in my game and I am developing them.
"I'm really looking to coming back to Wimbledon. It is exciting to me."
Hantuchova believes the work she has done with Sears will benefit her campaign over the fortnight. She said: "Nigel has improved my techniques and mental attitudes as well as helping to make me stronger physically."
Hantuchova has had a consistent year, also making the last eight in Sydney, the Paris Indoor, Charleston, Amelia Island and Berlin and it took Venus to stop her reaching the Antwerp final.
However, she had a disappointing French Open, going out to American Ashley Harkleroad in the Second Round.
Sears declines to make predictions about how Hantuchova will fare at The Championships this year but he feels she can make an impact.
He said: "Daniela has proved she can be dangerous at Wimbledon and if she can force her way into the second week again there's always a chance she could do well. But the two Williams sisters are clearly favourites and the other girls, Daniela included, have got it all to do if they are going to upset the routines Serena and Venus have established for themselves.
"The Williams sisters have taken tennis to a new level and they are taking tennis more serious and are playing better this year. It makes it a great challenge for the people chasing them.
"In order to pressure the Williamses you have to serve well. Daniela does. You've got to have big shots on both sides. The added dimension that Daniela has is that she can take the pace off the ball and use angles and touch which used at the right time can be effective.
"She has the potential to rival the sisters but must stay healthy and continue to work as hard as she does now.
One thing is for sure, she is not scared of them and a lot of other players are.
"If Daniela can build on her quarter‑final in Australia, which was her third successive Grand Slam quarter‑final, there's absolutely no reason she can't have a special Grand Slam this year.
“I'm not going to tell you she will win Wimbledon or even reach the semis. I'd rather say, like I say to her every time, let's make the second week, that's where the real tournament starts."