Ashley Weinhold's work in Boca pays off with wild card into U.S. Open
Charles Bricker | Sports Columnist August 27, 2007 I don't know how far Ashley Weinhold is going as a pro, but the hard work she's putting in with her USTA coaches in Boca Raton paid off last weekend with a triumph at the U.S. Girls 18s hardcourts, which earned her a wild card into the U.S. Open.
And she's got a great attitude.
I asked her how she would react if she drew world No. 1 Justine Henin in the first round of her first Grand Slam main draw.
"That would make my year," she said enthusiastically. "It would be so exciting to play her ... at night ... on the stadium, of course."
But wouldn't you prefer, say, a qualifier who would give you more optimism about making the second round?
"No," she replied quickly. "You just don't get the opportunity and experience of playing No. 1 very often."
There aren't many players smaller than Henin on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Weinhold might be one of them. It's a close call on the height and weight. It's not a close call on the talent.
Weinhold, who turned 18 in June, is ranked No. 407, which is not a good sign in women's tennis for a player at this age. It doesn't mean she's not going to achieve some success, but if she does it's going to have to come in the late-bloomer category.
She's one-half of a new program begun by the USTA. Instead of assigning one coach to a half-dozen aspiring players or juniors, it has assigned one coach to work and travel with two: Weinhold and Madison Brengle.
Weinhold is from Austin, Texas. Brengle, 17, is from Dover, Del. They train together at the Evert Academy, though they've had different itineraries this summer.
Weinhold's took her to Berkeley, Calif., to play the most important Americans-only hardcourt event in the United States, where she defeated Alison Riske of McMurray, Pa., in the final 6-3, 6-3.
"When the last point was over, I just had a big smile. Didn't go to my knees or anything," she explained. Over-emotion is not her style. Actually, the final was something of a snap after she labored through a tougher-than-it-seems 6-3, 6-4 win over Mary Gambale of Bellerica, Mass., in the semis.
"I lost to her twice this year and I hadn't beaten her, but I was trying to get a little bit better with each match. So when I got to the semis, I was at the top of my game," she said. "I was ready mentally and physically."
These two junior hardcourt events — in Berkeley for the girls, Kalamazoo for the boys — are major majors for these teenagers because the winners get a free pass into the main draw of the Open.
"I can't wait to step off the plane," Weinhold said. "I was in New York last year to play the quallies and the juniors, and the atmosphere is great and with all the American fans."
Aside from being home-schooled, she sounds like just another U.S. teenager. There's a lot of Dave Matthews Band on her iPod, and the most recent movies she's seen are Shrek 3
and Knocked Up
Father Guy Weinhold, a former tennis instructor, put a racket in her hand at age 3, but it wasn't until she was 10 that she discarded her love for gymnastics to concentrate on tennis.
Eight years and a major junior title later, her next goal is to win her first-round match at the U.S. Open.