Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina
ROCKFORD -- Clarisa Fernandez pointed to court six at the Clock Tower Racquet Club on Sunday's first day of qualifying for the 10th Annual Rockford Challenger.
"I lost there in the semis," said the 23-year-old Argentine, reminiscing about 2001, the last time she played in Rockford. "I think it was to Jill Craybas. She won the tournament."
It was Craybas, and later the next year Fernandez lost again in a semifinal -- to Venus Williams in the French Open. She was on her way, ranked 26th in the world and playing in all the WTA tournaments.
Now, after two knee surgeries, she's back in Rockford, winning her first qualifying match 6-0, 6-1 over amateur Amanda Fink and needing another win today just to get in the main draw.
"The result here doesn't matter," Fernandez said. "This is the time to improve my game. Play and improve."
It sounds like an advertising motto, but it's Fernandez's credo since her lost season of 2004.
With a ranking of 369 and her history on the tour, Fernandez could have received a main draw into the Challenger of Rockford.
"We didn't ask for a wild card because she needs to play matches," her coach, Leonardo Lerda, said.
Last year at this time Fernandez was recovering from arthroscopic surgery on her right knee. She had the procedure in Australia and returned to her home in Cordoba, Argentina, to recuperate.
She went back to the clay courts of her homeland immediately and hit balls sitting on a stool.
"So I didn't lose the feel of the racket," she said.
She came back for the French Open in May and made it to the third round, but now her left knee needed to be scoped.
In August she went to Australia again for the procedure and returned home for more rehab.
"Now they're fine," Fernandez said of her knees. "They're perfect."
So is her tennis.
Fernandez won a $10,000 event in Miami before coming here, losing one set in five matches. After Rockford, she has a wild-card entry into a WTA event in Bogata, Colombia.
She beat Fink on Sunday in dominating fashion.
"I ran into a very good player," said Fink, the second-ranked junior in the nation who plans to play for USC next season.
"She has a lot of power. I knew after the first couple of games that this was a good player."