Spotlight on Katerina Vankova
During the course of this month, 22-year-old Katerina Vankova competed in ITF Pro Circuit tournaments in Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Switzerland.
The much travelled Czech Republic player, coached by former ATP pro David Prinosil, is also our featured player for August.
The month did not begin too promisingly for the young Czech player, crashing out to a qualifier in the opening round in the Austrian capital of Vienna 26 64 64. Vankova, runner-up here in 2011, left Austria following this defeat, but she would be back later in the month.
Vankova’s next tournament, held in the Slovakian town of Piestany, would see a dramatic improvement on her fortunes in Vienna.
The winner of seven career singles titles on the ITF Pro Circuit coming into this tournament, fifth seeded Vankova found herself once more opening against a qualifier.
Despite taking the first set 61, her opponent from Hungary, Zsofia Miko, quickly levelled the match, dropping two games in taking the second set. Not ready to make another quick fire tournament exit in succession, Vankova re-discovered her touch of the first set to run out a 61 26 61 winner.
Vankova also entered into the doubles event in Piestany where, for the first time since September 2008, she partnered Katerina Kramperova. The reunion was, however, to be short lived, at least whilst on the same side of the net, with the fourth seeded pair going down in straight sets in the first round.
The wins kept coming in the singles though, a second round win over another qualifier was followed up with an impressive 62 62 defeat of the number two seed, Mai Minokoshi from Japan.
Vankova pulled off another stunning victory in her semifinal match with Sofiya Kovalets, eliminating the Ukrainian with the loss of just one game to move into her first singles final since early May and second of 2012.
The final saw Vankova and Kramperova take to the court, this time though, as opponents.
Although the pair had only reunited as teammates for the first time in four years earlier in the week for the doubles event, the two had faced each other in July in the final round of qualifying at a $25,000 event in Darmstadt, Germany.
That day it was Kramperova who won in three sets and when the number one seed took the opening set 63 it looked as though she would be recording a third career win from three meetings with Vankova.
Vankova had been in impressive form all week leading up to this final and dropping the opening set only proved to be a minor blip as she rallied back to take the next two sets from her fellow Czech player. This 36 63 62 gave Vankova her first title of the year.
A return to Austria was next on the agenda for the 22-year old and a tournament in the city of Innsbruck.
Unseeded Vankova was handed the toughest start when drawn against the top seed Dalila Jakupovic, or so it was thought. Conceding just two games, one in each set, Vankova eliminated the Slovenian number one seed. This win then set the tone for the remainder of her tournament.
The second round again saw her drop just two games, this time in a 62 60 win against an Austrian wild card entrant, before seeing off another seed in the eighth seeded Austrian Yvonne Neuwirth 62 62.
Vankova was certainly enjoying her time in Austria in this visit and soon found herself in a second final in as many weeks with a 62 61 defeat of yet another Austrian opponent.
German qualifier Lena-Marie Hofmann now stood between Vankova and back-to-back singles titles for the first time in her career on the ITF Pro Circuit to date.
With only one game lost in the opening set it appeared Hofmann was going to go the way of all those before her this week but she then stunned the rampant Czech player with a 64 second set win. The deciding set was as closely fought as the second and the score line was repeated, only this time in Vankova’s favour, and another title was secured.
A fourth tournament of the month saw Vankova, unseeded once again, visit the Czech Republic capital of Prague. Here she was taking part in a $25,000 tournament as a wild card entrant but her participation was short lived and a 75 63 loss to the third seed from Poland, Paula Kania, saw her make a second round exit.
Vankova was to see the month out in Caslano, a Swiss village hosting the ITF Pro Circuit for the first time, where she was back among the seeds as the fourth seed.
Two qualifiers were quickly eliminated in the opening two rounds with wins of 61 60 and 63 62 to take her into the quarterfinals. Another straight sets win followed but then in the semifinal, 17-year old Swiss wild card entrant, Imane Maelle Kocher, stunned Vankova with a first set 63 win.
A minor setback though, as it turned out, as Vankova then only conceded three games over the course of the next two sets to make the final with a 36 61 62 triumph.
The final pitted her against Russian fifth seed Daria Salnikova who, the previous day, had contested the doubles final where she finished as runner-up.
Whereas Vankova was playing in her third singles final of the month, her 18-year old opponent was in her first final since a December 2011 title win in Antalya, Turkey.
Despite this, Vankova could not take things easy and had to respect an opponent who had
already eliminated two seeds, including the top seed in the quarterfinal 16 60 62.
The final was settled over two close sets of tennis and with a 63 64 win it was Vankova who was to end the month on a high whilst Salnikova had to settle for another runners-up trophy of the week.