Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Schnack ends retirement on trial basis

Yasmin Schnack, 25, of Elk Grove returned to the
pro circuit last week on a six-month trial basis. She
retired at the end of last year. Photo by Paul Bauman 
   SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- It began with a spark last month at the $12,500 Macys.com Women's Tennis Open in San Rafael, Calif.
   A flame rose the next week at the U.S. Open National Playoffs in New Haven, Conn.
   And a raging fire erupted the following week at the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows.
   At that point, Yasmin Schnack was overcome by a desire to return to professional tennis.
   The 25-year-old resident of Elk Grove in the Sacramento area ended her nine-month retirement last week at the $25,000 The Ascension Project Women's Challenger in Redding, Calif. The former UCLA All-American, who reached career highs of No. 140 in the world in doubles and No. 371 in singles last year, plans to put off nursing school and play on a six-month trial basis.
   Schnack, 5-foot-10 (1.78 meters), competed only in doubles in Redding. She and Ksenia Pervak of Russia received a walkover in the first round, then lost in the quarterfinals to fourth-seeded Americans Macall Harkins and Sanaz Marand.
   Schnack won the Redding doubles title with Sacramento native Christina Fusano in 2010 and Modesto native Maria Sanchez in 2011. Marand captured it last year with Jacqueline Cako.
   At the Macys.com tournament in Brad Gilbert's hometown, Schnack won the singles and doubles titles.
   Seeded second in singles, Schnack beat seventh-seeded Katsyarina Zheltova 6-3, 6-4 in the final. Zheltova, a former All-American at Sacramento State from Belarus, had ousted Jana Juricova, the top seed and 2011 NCAA champion from Cal, 6-2, 6-3 in the semifinals. Schnack and Zheltova, seeded first in doubles, demolished Lejla Hodzic and Juricova 6-1, 6-0 for the title.
   "I played well in the Macys Open in singles and doubles," Schnack said in a recent interview. "Katya is an incredible player. I felt every match I was playing well, hitting well and mentally fresh."
   In New Haven, Schnack and Eric Roberson of Sacramento won the mixed doubles title to earn an automatic berth in the main draw at the U.S. Open. The playoffs were held in conjunction with the New Haven Open on the WTA tour, the major leagues of women's tennis.
   "Being in that atmosphere, seeing (the WTA players') work ethic and training, they're so professional," marveled Schnack, who had played almost exclusively in tennis' minor leagues in her two-plus years as a professional. "To be around that atmosphere was transforming for me. It renewed my energy. I wanted to go out there and practice."
   At the U.S. Open, Schnack and Roberson lost in the first round to Slovakians Janette Husarova and Filip Polasek 6-4, 7-6 (3). Husarova, 39, reached No. 3 in the world in women's doubles in 2003. Polasek, 28, climbed to No. 20 in January 2012.
  "Playing in the Open was even more eye-opening," Schnack said. "I'm in the gym surrounded by (Rafael) Nadal and (Tommy) Robredo. They're lifting, stretching ... it's inspiring, infectious. You can't help but want to train. Eric had the same feeling: 'I want to be back here.'
   "I was bummed after our first-round loss, but Vania (King) said: 'Great playing. Your level is right here. Go for it if you want to.' It's going to take a lot of work -- my ranking has dropped so much -- but I'm not afraid of a challenge."
   King, who won the Wimbledon and U.S. Open women's doubles titles in 2010 with Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan, is Schnack's best friend. They lost in the first round of women's doubles at Wimbledon last year to eighth-seeded Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic in Schnack's only other appearance in a Grand Slam tournament as an adult.
   King said in March that Schnack "is more talented than I am. She has very clean strokes. She has a great body, great physical ability and an all-court game. She has all the tools. The game came naturally to her."
   Schnack was named after Yasmin Azir, played by Sophia Loren in the 1966 movie "Arabesque."
   As a sophomore at UCLA in 2008, Schnack helped the Bruins win their only NCAA women's team title. In 2010, she was named the Pacific-10 Conference Women's Player of the Year and graduated in sociology.
   Schnack has won 11 doubles and two singles titles on the ITF Women's Circuit. She also played for Sacramento in World TeamTennis in 2011 and 2012, helping the Capitals advance to the WTT Finals in her second year.
   Citing loneliness, financial struggles and her father's declining health, Schnack left the pro circuit at the end of last year. William Schnack is a retired physician.
   Yasmin has been teaching at the Rio del Oro Racquet Club in Sacramento, applying to nursing schools and playing open tournaments in Northern California. She was accepted at Roseman University in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, Nev. Meanwhile, her world rankings have plunged to No. 438 in doubles and No. 958 in singles.
   Schnack hopes to play singles and doubles in the $50,000 Party Rock Open in Las Vegas next week. After competing in mixed doubles with Roberson in the Sacramento Clay Court League in October, she plans to play one or two pro tournaments in November and full-time at the beginning of next year.
   "There's no pressure," Schnack said. "I can go out and have fun. I don't have to pay the bills. I can still go to school."

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