Friday, January 15, 2010
Wickmayer qualifies for Aussie Open
MELBOURNE, Australia -- Yanina Wickmayer was toiling on Court 7 in the midday sun on Saturday, easily winning her third qualifying match to earn a spot in the main draw two days ahead of the Australian Open.
In a perfect world, the U.S. Open semifinalist, winner of last week's Auckland tournament and 16th-ranked player on the WTA Tour shouldn't have been laboring so hard at Melbourne Park.
But there's been precious little perfect the past few months for the 20-year-old Belgian.
Originally given a one-year ban for violating the World Anti-Doping Agency's so-called "whereabouts" rule, Wickmayer appealed to a Belgian court and the controversial suspension was lifted last month.
The cutoff for main-draw entries at the season's first major had already passed by then, so she had to go the qualifying route. Wickmayer would have been seeded No. 16 for the Australian Open based on her ranking.
"It doesn't make me angry, just disappointed a little bit," Wickmayer told The Associated Press after her 6-0, 6-0 win over Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain on Saturday.
"I think I deserved my place in the draw as the 16th seed and not as a qualifier, but I knew it was going to be this way," she said. "I tried to make the best of it, stayed positive and strong mentally. I'm really happy the way I handled everything."
Wickmayer was a late wild-card entrant to the Auckland tournament she won last week -- her third career title -- after the Belgian court upheld her appeal against the suspension, imposed because she'd received three violations of WADA's whereabouts rule.
She is also appealing the penalty to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the European Commission and the European Court for Human Rights. But she said Saturday that her father and lawyers are handling the legalities and "I don't really want to know too much about it."
Wickmayer became subject to the whereabouts rule when she lifted her world ranking through 2009 into the world's top 50. The regulation, as it applies to tennis, requires top-50 players to list their whereabouts for anti-doping authorities. It's a regulation primarily designed so that WADA can easily conduct random, out-of-competition drug testing.
Wickmayer blamed poor communication, saying the Flemish anti-doping agency sent notices of the breach to her home in Belgium while she was in Australia.
Wickmayer, who was seeded No. 1 for the qualifying tournament, won her first match in three sets, her second 6-0, 6-1 before her easy victory Saturday. She said her experiences over the past several months helped prepare her for what could have been a depressing experience -- qualifying for a Grand Slam the week after winning a WTA tournament.
"It has been a really tough time, the last couple of weeks, months," Wickmayer said. "My title last week helped me a lot, but coming here and starting the qualies wasn't easy for me.
"But I tried to take the positives -- I've had a few good matches, playing on the [outdoor] courts will help, and I'm finding my rhythm. These are all advantages for me," she said.
Still, on Friday she found it pretty tough to be playing in qualifying instead of watching the Australian Open draw being made.
"It wasn't easy seeing who the 16th seed was instead of you and seeing who you could have played," she said. "But I couldn't change that three weeks ago or even three days ago, so that's the way it was and I had to deal with it."
For the record, Wickmayer's 16th seeding went to China's Li Na, who will play New Zealand's Marina Erakovic, ranked No. 252, in the first round.
Wickmayer found out later Saturday after the qualifying players were slotted into the main draw that she'll play Alexandra Dulgheru of Romania in the first round. Dulgheru, ranked 53rd, lost to Wickmayer in all three matches they played in 2009.
Clijsters and Justine Henin, both former No. 1-ranked players and both from Belgium, are five tournaments and one tournament into their respective comebacks from retirement.
"Justine is already playing a Belgian [Kirsten Flipkens] so that would be four Belgians against each other in the first round," Wickmayer said. "All I know is I'm going to have at least one day off tomorrow, rest and hopefully keep playing like I'm playing."