I like Weingartner's game. She is up and coming.
Challenger attracts up-and-coming talent
Fred Kelly , The Midland Daily News 01/23/2003
What do Justine Henin, Anastasia Myskina, Chanda Rubin, Alexandra Stevenson, and Anne Kremer have in common?
For one thing, they’re all ranked among the top female tennis players in the world.
For another, they’ve all appeared in the recent past at the USTA/Dow Corning Women’s Challenger.
Tournament director Mike Woody hopes that this year’s crop of young hopefuls will one day go on to the type of prominence enjoyed by Henin (No. 5 in the world), Myskina (No. 12), Rubin (No. 13), Stevenson (No. 21), and Kremer (No. 26).
"Traditionally, the Challenger has served as an important proving ground for rising young stars around the world," Woody said Wednesday.
Starting Feb. 2, local fans will get a chance to see any number of players who may indeed turn out to be the next big thing in women’s tennis, as the Challenger kicks off with qualifying competition. Main draw action begins Tuesday, Feb. 4, with the semifinals scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 8 and the finals for Sunday, Feb. 9.
The top-ranked player, as of Wednesday, will be 21-year-old Sarah Taylor of Bradenton, Fla. Taylor is ranked No. 83 in the world and has made past appearances at the Challenger.
"She’s quite a player," Woody said of Taylor. "She’s been on the (ITF) Circuit for about eight years."
Other top-100 players scheduled to compete are Germany’s 23-year-old Marlene Weingartner (No. 90) and Spain’s 27-year-old Conchita Martinez-Granados (No. 94). Weingartner, who will be making her first appearance in Midland, has beaten a number of top players, including Amanda Coetzer, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Meghann Shaughnessy, and Sandrine Testud, in the past.
"She’s a player with a lot of momentum coming into our event," Woody said of Weingartner.
Also coming to Midland will be 26-year-old Russian Alina Jidkova (No. 101), a veteran of the Challenger, and Swartz Creek native 26-year-old Mashona Washington (No. 111), now of Houston, Texas.
Last year’s runner-up at Midland, Washington will be making her ninth appearance at the Challenger, the most by any individual.
"She’s a staple name at our event," Woody noted.
Rounding out the top eight players scheduled for this year’s tourney are 24-year-old Samantha Reeves (No. 112) of Miami, Fla.; 22-year-old Milagros Sequera (No. 116) of Venezuela; and 20-year-old Ansley Cargill (No. 118) of Atlanta, Ga.
Reeves, an ITF veteran formerly of Wisconsin, is hoping to return to the form that carried her out of qualifying and into the 1998 Challenger finals, where she finally lost to Stevenson.
"Last year, she had an off year, but now she’s resurging," Woody said.
Cargill, by contrast, is in only her second year on the ITF Circuit. She will be making her second consecutive appearance in Midland.
"She’s a player to watch," Woody said.
Other notables scheduled to appear are last year’s top seed Jennifer Hopkins (No. 154) of Leawood, Kan.; two-time finalist Tara Snyder (No. 165) of Houston, Texas; and wild cards Andrea Remynse of Battle Creek and Bea Bielik of Valley Stream, N.Y.
Remynse, a 14-year-old who is 16th in the nation in the girls 18-U rankings, earned her way into the Challenger by winning the recent Wild Card Challenge at the Midland Community Tennis Center. In winning five straight matches, she did not drop a set during the event.
Heading into this week, Remynse is 12-0 in match play during 2003.
Bielik, a 22-year-old native of Budapest, Hungary, was the NCAA Division I singles champion after a dominant junior season at Wake Forest in 2001-02. A big girl (6 feet tall) with a big serve (116 miles per hour), Bielik is ranked 250th in the world.
Her professional debut came at last year’s U.S. Open, where she reached the third round before falling to the eighth-seeded Henin.
According to Woody, this year’s lineup is pretty certain as of Wednesday.
"The only way (these players) won’t be in the tournament at this point is if they have an illness or (injury)," he said.
©Midland Daily News 2003