This player's up for a tall challenge
BY JASON WILLIAMS | ENQUIRER CONTRIBUTOR
MASON - At 6 feet 3, Akgul Amanmuradova has the distinction of being the tallest player on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.
This week, she hopes to gain an identity through her play.
Amanmuradova has reached the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Financial Group Women's Open, the deepest she has advanced in a tournament of this level. And she certainly earned it.
Having overcome a toothache and a bee sting during qualifying last weekend, Amanmuradova outlasted Bethanie Mattek 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 (4) in a marathon second-round match Thursday. Actual play lasted 2 hours, 12 minutes, with two rain delays that combined to last 2 hours, 21 minutes.
Plus, Amanmuradova was down 0-4 in the third set.
"I just kept fighting," said Amanmuradova.
That seems to be the story of her career.
Amanmuradova, 23, of Uzbekistan, never has been able to obtain a sponsor. Instead, she has been dependent on the Uzbekistan Tennis Federation, which pays for her expenses but reportedly takes 50 percent of her earnings.
"It's good to have their support," Amanmuradova said. "In our country, it's very difficult to get a sponsorship at my age. If you want sponsorship, you have to be 14, 15 years old. (Sponsors) just want the new players."
Amanmuradova grew up near a tennis club, but she said she didn't begin playing regularly until she was 10, which is considered late for players with professional aspirations. She actually first tried tennis when she was 7.
"I went to the swimming pool first," Amanmuradova said. "It was too deep. I was too scared. So I said to my parents, 'We're going to play tennis.' "
At 10, she became passionate about tennis after watching a tournament on television. Six years later, Amanmuradova tried her hand at basketball. As one of the tallest children in her class, the boys always asked her to play.
"They always had four (boys to play)," she said. "The fifth was always sick. He didn't really like sports. He was pretty fat. So the guys asked me if I could ... play."
Amanmuradova said the coach of the Uzbekistan junior national basketball team once tried to recruit her. No thanks, she said.
Amanmuradova, ranked 141st in the world, said her height helps her some in tennis.
"It helps with your serves," she said. "You just need two steps sometimes to reach the ball sometimes. But I can't move as fast as a short player."