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GogoGirl
Mar 10th, 2002, 05:49 PM
I am one that is glad we have many young players clamoring for the top spot. If this keeps up - we won't have to ever worry that we won't continue to enjoy WTA tennis when our faves retire from the courts.

Like I stated before - I think Daniela will rule in the future. 'Ova's are on the rise.



Up-and-Coming Players Deserving of an Ovation

Recent Columns:
Up-and-Coming Players Deserving of an Ovation
Mar 10, 2002

Sampras Finally Calls on the Clay Master
Mar 4, 2002

Minority of One
Feb 25, 2002

Agassi, Hewitt: Tale of Agendas
Feb 19, 2002

Sampras Finds Motivation
Feb 11, 2002



INDIAN WELLS -- Everyone in women's tennis these days seems to have "ova" attached to the end of their name.

Well, not everyone--it only seems that way. Twelve players whose names end in "ova"--an eighth of the draw--started the Pacific Life Open and six are still in contention at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. They are from Slovakia, Russia, the Czech Republic, Uzbekistan and Israel. Yes, Israel, by way of Russia, represented by the appropriately named Anna Smashnova.

But Smashnova has been a pro since 1991, and is ranked outside the top 50, at No. 57. There are new "ovas" on the block and well worth watching, especially on a day when the top players had little trouble. Second-seeded Martina Hingis has been receiving acupuncture on her right wrist, flying in a doctor from Switzerland. The wrist bothered her last week at the women's tennis event in Scottsdale, Ariz., but she said it improved. Previously, he also worked on her heel and Hingis, 21, said: "I'm getting older."

The wrist looked fine as Hingis defeated Silvija Talaja of Croatia, 6-0, 6-1, in 41 minutes. Later, No. 4 Monica Seles beat Martina Sucha of Slovakia, 6-0, 6-3.

Those matches were on the Stadium Court, and the "ova" players were dispatched to the outside courts.

On Court 3, No. 13 Iroda Tulyaganova of Uzbekistan used her powerful ground strokes and serve to easily dismiss qualifier Jelena Kostanic of Croatia, winning the second-round match, 6-3, 6-3. Later in the afternoon, No. 18 Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia survived the stalling techniques of Tatiana Poutchek of Belarus on Court 2, losing onlyfour games in the second round.

Tulyaganova, 20, won two titles last year and had the second-fastest serve on the tour in 2001, reaching 119 mph at Key Biscayne, Fla. (Venus Williams had the fastest, 125 mph at Wimbledon.)

There are professional tennis events in Uzbekistan, but Tulyaganova is setting an example for women in her country, reaching her current ranking of No. 19. She hopes the youngsters at home follow her strict work ethic, saying: "We want to win the Fed Cup."

Tulyaganova has taken a deeper interest in children, donating money and spending time with kids from the Mehrijon orphanage in Tashkent. She gave $2,000 (U.S), which is a substantial sum in her country.

"As soon as I can win more money, I will give the more money," she said, smiling. "I also promised them I will go play with them this summer. I was there four times already, the fifth time I have to come with my tennis racket."

Leaving home was difficult after Sept. 11, especially after Uzbekistan allied itself with the United States in the war against terrorism.

"I was scared when I was out of Uzbekistan," she said. "I was scared what was going on there in Tashkent. How is my family, my sister, my grandmother, my family? I was calling almost every day, 10 times, five times a day.

"Then they said, 'No, nothing is happening in Tashkent.' Only things happening at the border. And Tashkent from the border of Afghanistan is 1,500 kilometers. It wasn't close and they said U.S. army is for us, they stay in front of us, so nobody one can bother us in Uzbekistan."

Unlike Tulyaganova, Hantuchova is searching for her first WTA singles title, though she reached the semifinals at Oklahoma City and Birmingham last year. The 18-year-old has two Grand Slam mixed doubles titles, winning Wimbledon in 2001 and the Australian Open in January and made a big splash by taking Venus Williams to three sets in Melbourne.

Her father, Igor, is a computer scientist and mother, Marianna, is a toxicologist. A nice change because some parents on the tour are merely toxic.

Hantuchova's first coach was her grandmother, Helena, who was once the top player in Slovakia.

"At that time, you couldn't travel," she said of her grandmother's restricted career. "It was an old style of play, just the way they used to play at the time. She comes to every practice to see me when I'm at home. She was very, very strict, but we always had a lot of fun."