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post #16 of 19 (permalink) Old Feb 5th, 2008, 09:20 AM
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Re: Fed Cup - 1st Round

Fed Cup rookie has seen lot of life
Harkleroad early sensation as junior
By Don Norcross

February 4, 2008

Ashley Harkleroad bites her nails to the quick and cracks her knuckles. If the woman from small-town Georgia sports some nervous tendencies, it's understandable.
Few players have been saddled with the expectations heaped upon Harkleroad, then been forced to deal with the ensuing bumps in the road.

Dubbed a cross between the next Jennifer Capriati and Anna Kournikova at 16. Married at 19. Divorced at 21. Taking a six-month sabbatical. Her game good but not Top 10 great.

All that, and still now only 22 years old.
“I feel young because I am young,” said Harkleroad. “But I also feel like I've been around.

She hasn't been around Fed Cup much. Harkleroad made her debut representing the United States on Saturday against Germany, playing after Lindsay Davenport had been dealt a surprising loss.

Harkleroad responded with a businesslike 6-1, 6-3 thumping of Germany's Tatjana Malek, enabling the Americans to avoid an 0-2 disaster.

“I was excited, hoping I could handle the situation and the nerves,” said Harkleroad. “I think I did.”

While waiting out yesterday's rain that wound up postponing the quarterfinal Fed Cup match until today, Harkleroad expounded openly and eloquently on her life journey.

The great expectations, she admits, came before she could handle them, mentally or physically against more powerful players.

“I mean, I'm just from a small town in Georgia,” Harkleroad said in her slight Southern drawl. (She was born in Rossville, population 3,511, according to the 2000 census.)

“We didn't really know what it's like to be on tour and sign contracts with Nike and be this or that or the next Capriati or whatever I'm supposed to be. I didn't have this Russian father who's like this (Harkleroad flexes her arms, taking an obvious jab at Maria Sharapova's father). I wasn't a programmed tennis player.”

Getting married at 19 to fellow tennis pro Alex Bogomolov, she said, was a product of her Bible-belt, Southern roots.

“We got married because I was tired of living in sin,” she said.

The Capriati comparisons were based on a junior career that included winning an 18-and-under national title at 14 years, 11 months, plus a runner-up showing at French Open juniors.

“It wasn't really unfair because I was winning so much,” Harkleroad admits. “But I think I was a little bit immature mentally to handle all that.

“And I didn't have the team around me to be positive enough for me to say, 'Hey, you're doing good. You're ranked in the Top 50.' I didn't have to be Top 20 in the world. You're talking like Sharapova status.”

The Kournikova hype picked up steam at the 2001 U.S. Open when Harkleroad was awarded a wild-card spot. Harkleroad, 16 at the time, wore her then-blond hair in a long ponytail like a certain Russian. Her clothing choice: a tight, two-piece Nike outfit that showed off her stomach.

The comparisons, she said, were a distraction.

“Being this (marketed) pretty girl who's supposed to be winning WTA titles and wearing skimpy (clothes), I didn't get that,” she said. “I was never comfortable with (the Kournikova comparison). I kind of like to fly under the radar.”

She does share one distinction with Kournikova. Neither has won a WTA title. Harkleroad reached one final, losing to Eleni Daniilidou at Auckland, New Zealand, in 2004.

Harkleroad's career-best ranking: No. 39 in 2003. Her best Grand Slam showings: third round at the French (2003) and Australian (2007). In 11 of her 19 Grand Slam appearances the Georgian has been bounced in the first round. She's currently ranked No. 76.

U.S. Fed Cup captain Zina Garrison says Harkleroad needs to rid herself of all those expectations.

“In the end,” said Garrison, “she's the one who's going to have to look in the mirror and be comfortable with herself.”

Harkleroad says she's doing just that, ignoring beliefs others might have by living with her boyfriend/coach, 36-year-old Chuck Adams. And she doesn't dress provocatively on the court.

“Now I like to wear clothes that hide my body more,” she said. “It's about me, myself, the ball and my opponent.”

At 5-foot-5, 121 pounds, Harkleroad faces a big challenge trying to hang in against today's power players such as Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, and her opponent today, Sabine Lisicki.

To compensate, she hugs the baseline, trying to use her opponent's pace to her advantage, scampers about like Michael Chang and mixes in some volleying.

“I love her game,” Garrison says. “She has some old-school flair. She comes in, she mixes it up, she moves the ball around. It's nice tennis to watch.”

In the WTA media guide, under “personal,” it states that Harkleroad “aspires (to become) a Top 10 pro with an eye on No. 1.”

The book needs editing. As the raindrops splattered outside at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, Harkleroad said “realistically, maybe Top 25 would be awesome.”

Expectations – Harkleroad will not be anchored by them again.

“I play for myself now,” she said, “and I'm enjoying it much more than I ever have.”


just says boyfriend thank god...
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post #17 of 19 (permalink) Old Feb 5th, 2008, 09:38 AM
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Re: Fed Cup - 1st Round

i didnt relaise there was such an age difference meh.
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post #18 of 19 (permalink) Old Feb 5th, 2008, 11:59 PM
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Re: Fed Cup - 1st Round

What a nice article. Sort of said the same things in her interview on the TTC but it's nice to see what Ashley is really thinking.

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post #19 of 19 (permalink) Old Feb 6th, 2008, 12:32 AM
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Re: Fed Cup - 1st Round

Congrats Ashley!

[B]Gisela Dulko - Paula Ormaechea - Maria Kirilenko -
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