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tennisIlove09
Mar 2nd, 2003, 09:55 PM
Ai Sugiyama believes she’s peaking

By Matthew Cronin
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FROM THE STATE FARM CLASSIC IN SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ. – Andre Agassi hit his stride at age 27, so why shouldn't Japan’s Ai Sugiyama, who says that she's personally matured to the point that she understands who she is and how that affects her oncourt successes and failures.

"I’m much more comfortable with myself now," said Sugiyama, who upset No. 3 seed Lindsay Davenport and No. 6 Eleni Daniilidou to reach the Scottsdale semis. "I have more confidence because I know more about myself, I’m very calm and understand my game more."

Now in her 10th year on tour, the 5-foot-4 inch Sugiyama has won three singles and 21 doubles titles and about $3.22 million in prize money. She’s never been a force at the Slams, gaining only one quarterfinal at the '00 Australian Open, and her highest ranking is a very respectable but not eye-popping No. 15.

With her rapid-fire hands and quick feet, she has upset the likes of Steffi Graf, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Mary Pierce and Kim Clijsters. But her serve is a liability, she doesn’t have a money shot and even when she’s had some big players on the ropes in huge events, nerves have gotten the better of her.

"I've been very up and down emotionally," she said. "Sometimes I would win, other times I would get panicked. But now I don’t so much. I feel like I can still improve my strokes and especially my serve."

MOM REMAINS COACH
Sugiyama is one of the few players on tour who is coached by her mother, Fusako. Mom has been studying sports psychology and if Ai needs to kick it on a long couch and discuss process, Fusako is there. "She knows what to talk about if I need to talk," Ai said.

Like with Martina Hingis and her mother/coach, Melanie, separating the role of coach and mother can sometimes be difficult for the Sugiyamas.

"Sometimes it's tough but for the most part it works really well," Ai said.

DATE AND SUGIYAMA HAVE LEAD JAPANESE WOMEN
Japan has produced a decent amount of good players over the past 15 years. Kimiko Date and Sugiyama the most prominent among them. Sugiyama said there’s "three or four" young Japanese players who have impressed her.

"If they see what I have done and really push themselves to succeed, they can do it," Sugiyama said. "I’m not very tall and they are a lot of girls who are bigger and stronger, so if I’m doing well, so can they."

Sugiyama believes she is peaking and she had better get her hiking boots on for Sunday when she’ll have to scale Mt. Kilimanjaro. Because of the rain that plagued the tournament, Sugiyama may have to play four straight matches on Sunday: her 10 a.m. semifinal against Alexandra Stevenson and should she win, the singles final against Kim Clijsters. After that, she and Clijsters have to play their doubles semi against Marion Bartoli/Stephanie Cohen Aloro and should they win, have the option of to playing Lindsay Davenport and Lisa Raymond in the final or waiting until Monday.

Any anxiety that Sugiyama may have in the morning is sure to be sweat off in the afternoon. Should she win all four matches, the world will definitely know she has entered an Agassi-like stage in her career.

wongqks
Mar 2nd, 2003, 10:14 PM
Great article. She won one already, let's hope she can do something with the other possibly three matches ;)

LeonHart
Mar 2nd, 2003, 11:58 PM
I believe she's peaking too! :)

Venus Forever
Mar 3rd, 2003, 12:00 AM
Yeah, she's definitely peaking.

AjdeNate!
Mar 3rd, 2003, 12:21 AM
Go Go suGIyama!!

TM
Mar 3rd, 2003, 02:53 AM
and she IS!

go sugiyama!! :bounce:

she's on the Sega Sports Tennis on PS2 game (replaced Dokic from dreamcast version, Tennis 2k2)

kku
Mar 3rd, 2003, 03:05 AM
I just hope that after this terrific result for Ai, she won't post a plethora of 1st or 2nd round exits for the rest of the year.

harloo
Mar 3rd, 2003, 03:22 AM
congrats AI. She sure did shock me today against Kim. Great job!