Sunday, July 27, 2014

Lucic-Baroni, with troubled past, upset at Stanford

   The sad story of Mirjana Lucic-Baroni continued to play out on Saturday at Stanford.
   The former prodigy, now 32, lost to doubles specialist Raquel Kops-Jones of San Jose 6-2, 7-6 (8) in the first round of qualifying for the Bank of the West Classic.
   Lucic-Baroni, from Croatia, was seeded third at No. 127 in the world. Kops-Jones, 31, is ranked No. 1,038 in singles but No. 13 in doubles.
   Lucic-Baroni became the youngest player to win an Australian Open title when she took the 1998 women's doubles crown at 15 years, 10 months with Martina Hingis.
   At 17, Lucic reached the 1999 Wimbledon singles semifinals. She was the lowest-ranked player (No. 134) at the time to reach a Grand Slam semifinal but has been surpassed.
   Lucic-Baroni's career was derailed by problems with her father, who she has said physically abused her and tampered with her prize money.
   "There have been more beatings than anyone can imagine," Lucic-Baroni once said.
   Marinko Lucic countered: “I never used excessive force, and if I did give her the occasional slap, it was because of her behavior. I did what I believed what was best for the child.”
   Kops-Jones, who won last year's doubles title in the Bank of the West Classic with Abigail Spears of San Diego, will play fifth-seeded Paula Kania of Poland today for a berth in the singles main draw.
   Also advancing was Stanford sophomore Carol Zhao. The 19-year-old Canadian edged second-seeded Katerina Siniakova, an 18-year-old Czech ranked No. 123 in the world, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (3).
   Siniakova captured the girls doubles title at the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year with countrywoman Barbora Krejcikova.
   Top-seeded Alexsandra Wozniak, a Canadian who won the 2008 Bank of the West, defeated another Stanford sophomore, Caroline Doyle of San Francisco, 7-5, 6-3.
   Sixth-seeded Sachia Vickery of Hollywood, Fla., outplayed 15-year-old Michaela Gordon of nearby Los Altos Hills 6-4, 6-1.
At Stanford
First-round qualifying
   Raquel Kops-Jones, United States, def. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (3), Croatia, 6-2, 7-6 (8).
   Petra Martic (7), Croatia, def. Arantxa Parra Santonja, Spain, 6-4, 6-2.
   Aleksandra Wozniak (1), Canada, def. Caroline Doyle, United States, 7-5, 6-3.
   Carol Zhao, United States, def. Katerina Siniakova (2), Czech Republic, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (3).
   Paula Kania (5), Poland, def. Daria Gavrilova, Russia, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
   Naomi Osaka, Japan, def. Alla Kudryavtseva (4), Russia, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.
   Sachia Vickery (6), United States, def. Michaela Gordon, United States, 6-4, 6-1. 
   Marina Shamayko, Russia, def. Mari Osaka, Japan, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Today's schedule
(Starting at 10 a.m.)
   Petra Martic (7), Croatia, vs. Naomi Osaka, Japan.
   Paula Kania (5), Poland, vs. Raquel Kops-Jones, United States.
   Aleksandra Wozniak (1), Canada, vs. Sachia Vickery (6), United States.
Court 6 
(Starting at noon)
   Marina Shamayko, Russia, vs. Carol Zhao, Canada.


  1. Lucic is no longer to be considered a "sad story" by any means. Though personal and financial troubles did indeed keep her from the game for four long years (2003-2007), she returned after that period in a superb state of fitness to toil on the Challenger circuit and somewhat surprisingly reclaim (and maintain!) a spot in or near the Top 100 ever since 2010, winning 3 ITF singles titles, several Grand Slam matches, and a few doubles titles along the way. There have been some memorable upsets, too. In 2012 she beat Top 10-star Marion Bartoli to reach the third round at Wimbledon (all the way from qualifying) and we all know how Bartoli won Wimbledon the following year. Lucic also reached two WTA quarterfinals between 2010-2014, scoring many wins over Top 50 players, and she returned to the world's Top 40 doubles rankings in 2013, reaching the Wimbledon quarterfinals with Jelena Jankovic and earning over $300,000 for the season. She's earned over $200,000 already this season. Yes, she played like a dog at Stanford yesterday (I was there; it was truly horrendous) but she's had some injury issues this season and is perhaps looking a bit burned-out, at last, being 32 years old. That being noted, I think it's rather commendable that she was able to come back and regain a solid Top 100 career at all, even if it has not been as flashy as she may have hoped. So many "interrupted prodigies" never manage to do half that. Lucic is well-liked and respected by her fellow pros and she worked extremely hard to return to the biggest stages of the sport for four years running. I don't see her going much further in singles at this point, but she's been happily married for two years to a successful Florida restauranteur and has come full-circle as a person and a professional. Her tale has a happy ending, unlike her fellow 1999 Wimbledon semifinalist, Alexandra Stevenson, for example, who has not even played a Grand Slam main draw since 2004 (much less play 11 of them since 2010, like Lucic, winning 5 main draw matches and lots of qualifying matches), so a little perspective might be in order before we write Mirjana off as some continuing "sad story." Otherwise, keep up the good work. The NorCal tennis blog is very enjoyable.