Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Montreal, Canada
Marino's mini-muscles doing big things
Homegrown talent moving up rankings, ready for first-ever main draw
Marc Weber, The Province
Rebecca Marino's mini-muscles are starting to yield some big results.
The 18-year-old tennis player from Vancouver was ranked 716th during this summer's Odlum Brown Vancouver Open, where she lost in the semifinal to Poland's Urszula Radwanska.
She's now ranked No. 471 and about to play her first-ever main draw match on the WTA Tour.
Marino came through weekend qualifying at the $175,000 Bell Challenge in Quebec City, and will face 34-year-old American Jill Craybas in her opening-round match today.
She attributes her soaring ranking, in part, to the strength and agility work she's been doing with former tour player Nina Nittinger in Switzerland. She met Nittinger through Vancouver physiotherapist and fitness coach Carl Petersen, who co-authored a book with Nittinger."She's been helping me with my fitness and I've been able to move a lot better on the court," said the 6-foot-1 Marino, who already has the serve and strokes to match some of the tour's bigger names. "Before, my muscles wouldn't show at all. Now [Nina's] like, 'You have mini muscles.'"
After the VanOpen, Marino reached the final of a $10,000 event in London, then won her first pro singles title at a $10,000 event in Italy.
She beat American Ahsha Rolle, South African Chanelle Scheepers and then Brenda Schultz-McCarthy of the Netherlands in Bell Challenge qualifying. Schultz-McCarthy is a former world No. 9 who won the Bell Challenge in 1995 and '97. She used to lay claim to the fastest serve in women's tennis.
"It was like bombs coming at me," said Marino. "I was just trying to forget she's a former top 10 and had won this twice.
"She had two three-setters before me, so I knew she'd be a little sore. I'm happy with the way I played and really excited to play my first main draw."
Marino, who deferred her acceptance into NCAA Div. 1 powerhouse Georgia Tech until '09, has almost exclusively been playing low-level tournaments -- $10,000 and $50,000 events -- but even winning one round at the Bell Challenge could change her approach.
"If you win a round here you get 20 [ranking] points, which is huge for me," she said. "It's the equivalent of winning something like four $10,000s."