SUNFEAST OPEN (Kolkata, India; indoor Greenset; WTA Tier III)
Iroda was a brilliant player in 2001-2003, when she regularly played on the WTA Tour and in Grand Slams.
But a stress-fracture in her right elbow required surgery, and Iroda was sidelined from July 2003 to October 2004. Since then she's played only sporadically due to numerous injuries and undisclosed family-problems (more on which below), and in a diminished capacity.
But she has just won the Asian Championships (in the second week of the US Open) to earn herself a main-draw wild card for the Australian Open 2007. She had planned to play on for two more years, but now she wants to play until she's 30!
And her five wins to reach the semi-finals of Kolkata - her first WTA tournament of 2006 - are very encouraging. It seems that she is injury-free for the first time in three years, and the WTA Tour will be much richer for having her back!
Iroda is talking big: her goal for the Australian Open 2007 is to reach the quarter-finals (she has reached four Grand Slam third rounds in her career, but never a fourth round), and she still sees herself reaching the top ten in the future!
Iroda was the Player-representative for this tournament.
It's so nice to see new
photos of Iroda again!
She's still wearing the ring that could be a wedding-ring, I see.
On-court (Iroda and Olga Poutchkova):
Search Getty Images for "iroda"
It's pretty cool that there's only one Iroda in the world, so you don't have to type "tulyaganova" into every search-engine!
These are the first action-photos I've seen of Iroda in 2006, and the first photos from 2006 that even come close to doing justice to her looks. Yes, there was that little off-court photo from the Asian Championships, and the one from Kolkata - but they were so small, and as off-court photos, they paled in comparison to her exciting photoshoots from Knokke-Heist 2001!
On-court photo from the Asian Championships:
Notes & Netcords
There is a very interesting interview with Iroda in the 25th September edition of Notes & Netcords (the official newsletter of the WTA Tour), which you can download here:
The interview is on p.12 of the PDF file, along with a photo, and if you're interested enough in Iroda to be reading this
, you should definitely check it out!
Qualifying: First round (Saturday 16th September)
+ IRODA TULYAGANOVA  d. Meghha Vakaria, 6-1 6-0
Qualifying: Second round (Sunday 17th September)
+ IRODA TULYAGANOVA  d. SANDY GUMULYA , 6-1 6-3
From 1-1, Iroda won five games in a row to take the first set.
In the second set Iroda trailed 1-2, but led 3-2 and 4-3, losing no more games.
: "What's good about Sandy? Well, she runs well and hits hard, she is tactically astute, and she made very few unforced errors against Brémond. If she can keep up that kind of level then she might make it to the top 100 quite soon. It wouldn't surprise me at all if she goes even higher, into the top 50. She very talented and on her way."
Iroda enters main draw, back with bang after three-year layoff
Kolkata | September 17, 2006 5:45:50 PM IST
Iroda Tulyaganova's assertion that she would not have returned to the WTA tours unless she was sure of doing well reverberated in the majestic venue as she walloped both her opponents in the last two days to make a grand entry into the main draws of Sunfeast Open.
Today she crushed Sandy Gumulya of Indonesia 6-1, 6-3 with a range of strokes that can be remembered and admired at. The result could have been bettered had not a couple of unforced errors forced gave the Indonesian a game in the second set.
Agile, attacking and a fantastic weaponry of returns made her look like she was on song, decimating her opponent in style. Only few players in the WTA Tour would be as unlucky as Tulyaganova.
In 2002 the Uzbek girl was enjoying her career-best singles ranking of 16. She also won gold in the Busan Asian Games that year.
Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Anastasia Myskina, Elena Dementieva, Dinara Safina, Jelena Dokic -- she's had career wins over them all.
"I was playing my best tennis of my life. But I think I had overdone it. My bone gave way. It broke and took me three years to rehabilitate," she told UNI.
Yesterday she defeated Meghha Vakaria 6-1, 6-0.
However, the injury to her right elbow forced Iroda out of the circuit for three years starting 2003.
"It feels very sad. I too could have been where these girls are now. I was playing some of my best tennis when the elbow injury meant I couldn't compete for three years. I went through a very hard time. On the financial front too, life was tough. But I guess life's like that," Iroda said.
Couched in her entry into the main draw was a quiet warning for her opponents that she was back and, if she could have her way, back with a bang.
The former junior Wimbledon champion has a different take on life now.
"Now I'm a lot more relaxed. I don't kill myself if I lose a match. I enjoy my tennis a lot more these days.
"I've always been a winner in my life. And, I'm making a comeback not to linger around the Top-100, but to even better my highest ranking of 16. I do see myself ranked within the Top-10 in the world in the future. For the moment though, I'll be happy if I can finish this season inside the Top-200," she said.
The Sunfeast Open may be only her sixth tournament in her comeback year, but Iroda has already won the Asian Championships in Tashkent last week and has got herself a wild card for next season's first Grand Slam -- the Australian Open.
"These tournaments are a build-up for the Australian Open. I am looking forward to making every tournament I play count. I would like to do well in Sunfeast, that goes without saying," he said.
Now she is also preparing for the Asian Games in Doha.
"The federation is likely to make a camp in Thailand or maybe in Qatar some three weeks before the tourney to get us acclimatised to the heat of the desert city," she said.
Iroda lives with her mother, sister, aunt and their two daughters and her dog Chema. "My house is all women stuff. Call it the gang of Women Mafia. My Chema is the only male in the house," she signs off with a genial laughter.
UNI BA AY BD1632
Undisclosed family-problems... no mention of her father in that last paragraph... what happened to Batir? From what Iroda says in her Notes & Netcords interview (see above), I do know that he is not dead.
And who are the "their" in "their two daughters"? I guess "they" must be any two of Iroda, Anna, Nargiza and the aunt, but I'm having difficulty reconciling this ambiguous sentence (which seems to imply that Nargiza and the aunt are mothers) with what seems most likely (Anna and the aunt? Just the aunt?).
That paragraph does not sit well with the rumour that Iroda got married.
Iroda may be trying to pull her game together, but she says she needs a coach to help her realise her dream. At the moment she can't afford a coach, but she says she's applied to the Federation for help.
So how different is she finding the Tour now? "Well, it was more friendly when I was playing. Now, it's just competitive," she said.
More quotes from Iroda
"I too could have been where these girls are now. I was playing on top of my form when the elbow injury took me out of competition for three years.
"I went through a hard time - both mentally and financially. But, I guess life's like that.
"I have always been a winner in my life. Now that I have another chance, I will try move higher than my last best ranking [#16] in the WTA. Frankly, I see myself ranked within the top-10 in the world in future. For the moment, I will be happy if I can finish this season inside the Top-200."
Main draw: First round (Tuesday 19th September)
+ Iroda Tulyaganova [Q] d. Chuang,Chia-Jung [Q], 6-4 6-1
Iroda led 2-1 but trailed 2-3. The scoreboard froze at 4-4, and some sources say that Chuang retired at that scoreline.
KOLKATA, India (Reuters) - Uzbekistan's Iroda Tulyaganova is keen to get her career back on track after suffering three frustrating years of injury trouble following her 2002 Asian Games triumph.
The Tashkent-born 24-year-old was rated among the brightest prospects in the world four years ago, reaching a career-high WTA ranking of 16 on the back of three tournament victories and impressive wins over several top 10 players.
However, Tulyaganova's world came crashing down in 2003 after the hard-serving player suffered an elbow stress fracture that required surgery.
Dejected and struggling financially during her extended recovery period competing in lower tier tournaments, Tulyaganova is delighted to be plying her trade back in a main tour event.
Ranked a lowly 346th, she entered this week's Kolkata Open as a qualifier, but showed her class to sweep into the second round with a 6-4 6-1 victory over Taiwan's Chuang Chia-jung on Tuesday.
"I didn't realise before what I was playing for, because I was young and had nothing to lose," she told reporters. "But now I'm fighting for every win".
"This is my second start. I think I'm mentally tougher, more mature and composed on court."
Tulyaganova, who has played very few events this year, spoke about her injury woes earlier in the week, after winning her two qualifying rounds to enter the main draw.
"I think I'd overdone it; my bone gave way," she told reporters.
"It feels very sad, I too could have been where these girls are now," she said, referring to grand slam winners Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne, who she beat before her injury.
"I was playing some of my best tennis," she said. "I went through a very hard time.
"But I guess life's like that. Now I'm a lot more relaxed. I don't kill myself if I lose a match."
Tulyaganova is keen to do even better if she remains injury-free.
"I see myself ranked within the top 10 in the world in the future," she said. "For the moment though, I'll be happy if I can finish this season inside the top 200." Last week, she captured the Asian championship title in her hometown to earn a wildcard for next year's Australian Open.
"I want to at least reach the quarter-finals there," she said.
Main draw: Second round (Thursday 21st September)
+ Iroda Tulyaganova [Q] d. Casey Dellacqua, 6-3 6-2
I was disappointed that Iroda's opponent wasn't Karolina Šprem - a beautiful, graceful Croatian girl who reminds me of Jelena Dokic in the way she tends to go for broke on her groundstrokes.
First set: Iroda 2-0, 2-1, 4-1, 5-2, 6-3.
Second set: Iroda 3-2, 6-2.
: "Iroda, who is on a comeback, has allowed 11 games to three opponents she has faced so far. The forehands and plethora of aces, combined with a lethal slice with loads of backspin, have unsettled all her opponents. (IANS)"
Iroda: "I'm so happy to be back and playing. I love being out here and winning. The surface here [Greenset indoors] is really good for me."
Quarter-final (Friday 22nd September)
+ Iroda Tulyaganova [Q] d. Alla Kudryavtseva, 4-6 6-2 6-2
It sucks that this was the only quarter-final not on centre court. Prior to the semi-finals, I hadn't seen a single on-court photo of Iroda from this year!
First set: "Tulyaganova squandered a 3-1 lead to lose the first set, but got steadier throughout the match."
Second set: Iroda 0-1, 4-1, 4-2, 5-2, 6-2.
Third set: Iroda 3-0, 3-1, 4-1, 4-2, 5-2, 6-2.
Iroda came through a crucial game of two deuces at 1-0 (saving at least one point for 1-1). She was also taken to deuce in the penultimate game, but won the last game to 30 (she won the last three points of the match).
Iroda: "I'm going to try to win the title, but I have a tough match tomorrow against a good Russian girl, and if I win this, possibly a match with Hingis, so that would be very tough."
Semi-final (Saturday 23rd September)
- Iroda Tulyaganova [Q] lt. Olga Poutchkova, 4-6 4-6
This snapped a winning-streak of five singles-matches for Iroda - ten if you count the Asian Championships! (I don't, because it doesn't count towards the WTA rankings, and is not open to non-Asian players.)
Iroda recovered from 1-4 to 4-4 in both sets (saving points for 1-5 in the second). She had four break-points at 4-4 in the second, but Poutchkova held, and then broke to 30 on her first match-point. The match lasted 1h40m.
TULYAGANOV __@__*@*__ 4
POUTCHKOVA *@ @*___*@ 6
TULYAGANOV _*___*@*__ 4
POUTCHKOVA * *@*___*@ 6
Four years ago I would have been disappointed with this result, but if an angel had offered me before the tournament that Iroda would finish as a semi-finalist, I would have taken that for sure!
It's not so terrible that she lost to the mildly attractive Poutchkova, who is just beginning to make her mark on the WTA Tour. It's not like she was humiliated by Hingis, as was poor old Sania Mirza in the other semi-final - Poutchkova's task in the final was certainly an unenviable one!
(Hingis won 6-0 6-4)
Just to have Iroda qualify for her first WTA tournament of 2006 felt great to me. Reaching the semi-finals is like the cherry on the cake - but there are a lot more cherries that she's going to put on that cake, so I'm looking forward to having them.
Reuters: "The 85th-ranked Poutchkova displayed a gifted backhand against the shaky Tulyaganova, a former world number 16 on a comeback after a lengthy layoff following elbow surgery in 2003."
Olga Poutchkova defeats Tulyaganova to enter finals
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Kolkata: 18 year old Olga Poutchkova of Russia has defeated Iroda Tulyaganova of Uzbekistan in straight sets (6-4, 6-4) in the semi-final of the Sunfeat Open 2006. Poutchkova will face Martina Hingis in tomorrow's final.
Earlier, both the girls started off the match waiting and wanting their opponent to do all the running and to hold back. Poutchkova was all over the girl from Uzbekistan.
The young Russian held her serve and broke her opponent's serve very early into the first set. The powerful backhands of Poutchkova were something to be awed about. She was clearly doing a lot more of the running, but at the same time could follow that up with some very long volleys.
The fourth game of the first set saw a tremendous performance by both the girls, running back and forth before Poutchkova nailed a brilliant backhand winner to take the game.
The sixth game of the set and Tulyaganova's serve serve was getting a lot better already. She dropped only one point and took the game. The next game was drawn to deuce and not before Poutchkova took advantage of an unforced error from her opponent. Eventually, it just took two powerful backhands from Poutchkova to finish the game and retain her lead.
Poutchkova took the first set 6-4 and the second set was promising to be all the better.
The second set started exactly like the first with Poutchkova doing all the running and helping her cause in the process. The Russian girl managed to break her opponent's serve in the third game and took a quick 2-1 lead.
Tulyaganova kept fighting back and forth, and changed her game plan and decided to come to the net a lot more. Poutchkova ran away with a 4-1 lead very quickly in the 2nd set and it took a great effort from Tulyaganova to fight back.
Eventually, Poutchkova took the match in straight sets (6-4, 6-4).
Asked about how her opponent fought back after being 4-1 down in the second set, Poutchkova said that it got really intense in the end and she had to raise her game.
"I did not expect to go this far in the first WTA Tour meet after a three-year lay-off due to injury. But I am happy at the way I played. Poutchkova is a good player.
"I played poorly today. My first-serve percentage was too low, and I let her play her game too much. I came back in the second set, but then at four-all I was playing way too far behind the baseline. She's a great player though.
"Hingis knows how to play against everyone. But Olga is a good player.
"This was my first Tour event in three years. I qualified and reached the semis, which is a fantastic result for me! It gives me a lot of confidence for the future."
[It's actually her fourth
Tour event in three years. She played Tashkent in 2004 and 2005 (losing to Antonella Serra Zanetti in the second round both times). She also tried (unsuccessfully) to qualify for Dubai 2005.]
"I am happy. She had a big serve, but I played well too. I lost concentration a little bit, but when it was close, I came up with the shots and closed it out. Last week I reached my first quarter-final in Bali, and this week I'm in the final. I'm so happy!
"Hingis is a great player. It will be a fantastic experience to play Hingis, and in my first WTA event final. It's amazing to me. I remember when was ten years old, watching Martina play on TV. I used to watch her in Grand Slam finals when I was 12, and now I'm going to be playing her tomorrow! For me, it will be a big honour to play against her tomorrow. We'll just have to see how it goes!"
Iroda Tulyaganova/Akgul Amanmuradova:
1r + Ankita Bhambri/Sanaa Bhambri, 6-1 6-2
2r - YULIA BEYGELZIMER/YULIANA FEDAK , 6-7 (5/7) 7-5 0-3 retired (Amanmuradova sprained her right ankle)
WTA Tour Singles Rankings
Iroda's trailblazing run at Kolkata has elevated her from #342 to a much healthier #222 in the rankings this week - high enough to play qualifying for pretty much any WTA tournament she wants.
The effect isn't immediate, of course, as the commitments are made about seven weeks before each tournament.
I look forward to Iroda playing a full season on the WTA Tour in 2007, with much more media-coverage than the ITF circuit!
Dr. Andrew Broad