Nicole Vaidisova on course to be a British tennis hero
Jun 9 2008 Tennis by Brian Dick
The rise of British No 1 Anne Keothavong into the world’s top 100 is, of course, welcome but just in case the Londoner doesn’t make it into the second week of Wimbledon, imagine that if you dare, the country’s tennis fans might want to invest some emotional significance into the progress of Nicole Vaidisova.
Born in Germany, brought up in the Czech Republic and often resident in Florida, the 19-year-old does not boast the English credentials of Yorkshire Pudding or binge drinking but in desperate times for the indigenous game, desperate measures must be taken.
And for many, the fact Vaidisova has engaged the coaching services of Tim Henman’s former coach and one-time performance director of the Lawn Tennis Association, David Felgate, is enough to be going on with.
Having spent more than three weeks in the last couple of months in England, working with Felgate at the Sutton Tennis Academy, she virtually qualifies by residence.
All that stands between her and taking on fully-fledged Britishness is her rather rash habit of doing rather well in Grand Slam events.
And, it should be said, any desire on her part to transfer allegiance: “Am I an honorary Brit? Not yet,” the 19-year-old asserts. She didn’t say anything about ‘over my dead body’ but the sentiment was clearly transmitted.
Nevertheless the world No 16, and second favourite for this week’s DFS Classic at Edgbaston Priory, is happy to avail herself of the services of Felgate following his rather unceremonious departure from the LTA. Felgate’s record with Henman and recent rehabilitation of Belgium’s Xavier Malisse stands testament to his abilities.
It is not only her preference for a British coach that makes Vaidisova unusual. Like so many aspiring tennis teenagers, the elegant right-hander was nurtured through the ranks by a parent, in her case step-father Alex Kodat.
While she will not admit that her poor 2008 results had anything to do with the break-up, first-round exits from tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami can not have helped.
“The split was really hard,” she says. “There wasn’t a problem, I just think we had been together a long time and used each other up. We gave each other our all but it was just time to move on.
“Working with David is going well. It’s a change after 11 years of hearing the same thing so it’s hard to do something else but I like it.”
Which can only be good because Vaidisova’s recent travails could be attributed to the fact that she contracted a dose of glandular fever last summer following her quarter final exit at Wimbledon.
Incredibly, she did not play a single tournament between the All England Championships in early July and the United States Open in late August and still made the last eight at Flushing Meadow while she managed to finish the year ranked No 12.
“It is a very debilitating illness,” she said. “It’s difficult because you just can’t do anything. The only consolation was I got to spent a lot of time at home with my family.” Clearly, it didn’t help her relationship with Kodat.
Vaidisova insists she is now over her illness and claims that, after switching coaches, she is starting to make progress again - despite a first-round defeat to compatriot Iveta Benesova in the French Open.
With that in mind, she needs a good grass court campaign to offset the points lost at the French Open at Roland Garros wher she was a quarter finalist in 2007.
It is eminently possible, too. Last year’s run to the last eight could have been even better had she not squandered a match point against Ana Ivanovic to make the semis.
Her big serve make her a difficult opponent on the natural surface and a first DFS title would be excellent preparation for what is an important Wimbledon campaign.
“You only get to play on grass once a year, so it is nice if you do well,” she said. “I’ll always try to give it 100 per cent. I came here two days ago. I am feeling pretty comfortable on the grass now.”
Spoken like a true Brit.
Let's hope she will doing well this week!