Marina Erakovic is making progress again.
After three years of first round exits at her hometown WTA
event, Erakovic will be back out on court today (Wed) in the
second round of the ASB Classic. She's there courtesy of a
routine 6-2 6-1 victory over Canadian battler Stephanie
Dubois at Stanley Street yesterday.
That tangible step forward, though, is merely a consequence
of the improvements the 24-year-old has made to her game. Her
forehand exhibited new-found pop, her second serve was less
of a liability, she moved around the court more nimbly and
attacked her opponent relentlessly.
"I've been trying to hit bigger, especially on the forehand
side," Erakovic said.
"That's what I want to do; I want to run around and hit a big
forehand and dominate."
Consistently hitting the cover off the ball is not without
risk, however the rewards could be significant if Erakovic
can get it right often enough.
"All of us can rip it. Ripping it at crucial stages and
making it is the difference.
"I'm at a level now where I definitely can hit it big, but I
can control it. I definitely can hit it bigger than I did
Erakovic was particularly brutal on return, not allowing her
journeywoman opponent the satisfaction of a single service
hold. It was foot on the throat stuff from a player who
hasn't always brought her A-game to Auckland.
Two years ago a statuesque Erakovic was blown off centre
court by the solid but not exactly spectacular Elena Vesnina
without scuffing the soles of her sneakers. She was still
recovering from injury back then but, even so, it was a
performance that suggested a struggle against mediocrity lay
It seemed she would more often be on the receiving end of the
type of hidings she dished out yesterday. Rather than beating
up on the Dubois of the tennis world, Erakovic appeared
odds-on to become one of them.
But she's better than that - has always believed she's better
than that. And yesterday she proved it.
She was far from perfect, dropping the opening game of each
set on serve, but once she found her rhythm it was one-way
traffic. Dubois couldn't cope with the pressure and unraveled
at a pace that far out-stripped her patter-tennis second
Today's assignment - a first meeting with American Jamie
Hampton - will be much tougher. Hampton's first round
demolition of defending champion Zheng Jie was impressive.
But if Erakovic wants to take her game to the next level, the
one inhabited by the big girls of the top 20, it's the type
of examination she must pass on a regular basis.
With seeded players Zheng and illness-affected Sorana
Cirstea, and class act Svetlana Kuznetsova, all bombing out
in the first round, the tournament has opened up nicely for
If she can pass through doors that will be blocked by Hampton
and then either Kiki Bertens or Heather Watson - all players
ranked within spitting distance of Erakovic's 66 - a
semifinal date with world No4 Agnieszka Radwanska looms.
That contest would provide a real measure of just how far
this country's best tennis player has progressed.
- By Steve Deane of the NZ Herald