THIS ARTICLE WERE TAKEN FROM US OPEN NEWS ARCHIVE :
One in a Million: Ipek Senoglu
by Brad Falkner
Monday, September 6, 2004
When most people think of the pioneers of women's tennis, names like Gibson, King, and Navratilova come to mind. Ipek Senoglu is the latest addition to the women who make a difference and inspire others. Like her predecessors, Senoglu is trailblazer heading down the road less traveled.
Turkey's number one tennis player Senoglu first made history in June 2004 when she was accepted into the women's doubles qualifying for the Wimbledon championships. Though she did not advance into the main draw of Wimbledon, she did make it into the history books as the the first Turk ever to play in a qualifying tournament for a Grand Slam event.
Just like her game, Ipek kept moving forward and by the US Open, she had risen high enough into the rankings to gain direct entry into the doubles main draw, thus writing her own place in the history books.
"I want to show the children in my country that if they follow their dreams, anything is possible. In my country, people have a tendancy not to believe in themselves, they need to see somebody do it first," said Senoglu. "But it's so hard to travel on a road that has not been traveled on."
Widely regarded as a sport for the wealthy in Turkey, tennis is becoming more popular among the society as a whole. With the rapid growth in the number of courts available and the cost of playing going down, the sport is moving in the right direction. That said, Senoglu still believes that a lack of interest and, most importantly, lack of sponsorship in Turkey has added a few bumps in the road.
"I grew up with the words, 'Tennis players don't come from Turkey,'" Senoglu said. "There are still so few people in Turkey playing tennis at a world-class level. The general attitude is that it cannot be done, the people just don't believe in themselves."
Senoglu first picked up a racquet when she was 14. A gifted athlete, whose first love was basketball, she had to give up playing hoops due to a knee injury. That same year, she won the under-14 Turkish tennis championships in Istanbul. The coaches who had seen her play invited her to play at their club in Istanbul. "I stopped playing basketball full time and shifted my attention to tennis," Senoglu said.
That single-minded focus led to a full ride scholarship at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., where she bacame a three-time All-American and reached the NCAA semifinals in doubles two consecutive years (2000-2001). It was during this time when she first met her US Open doubles partner Laura Granville.
"I knew that she was a great player from playing against her in college. I love playing with her, she's a smart player," Granville said. "She's just a really cool girl and a lot of fun to be around. I hope to play with her more in the future."
Spend five miutes with Senoglu, whose smile is omnipresent, and it becomes clear that she's a warm individual with a playful nature. After practice, Senoglu, Granville, Shenay Perry, and Granville's father are having a bite to eat. After Mr. Granville waxes poetic about a favorite line from a classic movie (that none of the girls have seen or even heard of), Senoglu says with gentle laugh, "Mr. Granville, please give me a hug."
In the often-prickly social culture of the WTA, Senoglu's presence is a breath of fresh air. There is no haughty air about her. She is a humble, good-natured, charming young woman with a wonderful sense of humor. One can only hope that her positive attitude will be infectious.
"When I first got to the US Open, I didn't even know how to get a practice court. Anastasia Myskina's coach Jens Gerlach had to show me how to do it," chuckles Senoglu.
Senoglu does not have a coach and regularly travels alone on the tour. Her father has joined her in New York for companionship and encouragement. Her support group this week also includes former Pepperdine teammate and current assistant women's assistant coach Cintia Tortorella. Tortorella is not surprised by Senoglu's recent success.
"In college she was always saying that she wanted to go pro and we all thought that she should do it," says Tortorella. "It helps too that she's so independent."
Senoglu turned pro after college and her results on the satellite circuit have led to a steady climb in the world rankings. The current WTA listing has her at number 313 in singles and 117 in doubles. She is the higest-ranked Turkish player in the history of tennis.
Senoglu recalls her first Grand Slam experience at Wimbledon earlier this year, "When I asked the officials how much the deposit was for the practice balls, the lady smiled at me and said 'Honey, you're in a Grand Slam now.'"
She plays for the love of the game and plans to step up her fitness level in the fall and continue to play both doubles and singles.
"Two years ago people laughed at me and said, 'You'll never play a Grand Slam.' Now they're asking me, 'When are you playing?'"
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA`S THOUGHTS ABOUT IPEK
AND A NEW PHOTO FROM US OPEN 3RD ROUND
Last edited by Tenisci; Sep 10th, 2004 at 03:40 PM.