Verkerk Takes First Step On The Road To Comeback

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Martin VerkerkIt’s rare that we start out with the futures recap, but one particular result deserves some attention. Martin Verkerk of the Netherlands is a name tennis fans would definitely file in the “Where Are They Now?” pile. The lanky Dutchman came out of nowhere to reach the French Open finals in 2003 and then disappeared just as quickly as he succumbed to a variety of injuries. However, rather than hang up his racquets, Verkerk has admirably swallowed his pride and dropped back down to the futures circuit. This week, he took a small step back towards reaching Court Philippe Chatrier once again as he won the $15,000 event in Montreal. In other Futures news, Rui Machado of Portugal extended his winning streak on the Futures circuit to 23 matches as he won his fourth title of the year at the $15,000 event in Albuiera. On the women’s side, teenager Lenka Jurikova of Slovakia won the $10,000 event in Ramat Hasharon.

Ekaterina Dzehalevich has already proven herself as a standout doubles player in winning the doubles title at the WTA event in Tashkent and reaching the semifinals n Bangalore last week. Today, she took her singles game one step closer to reaching the WTA level that her doubles game is already at. The Belarusian player won her first ever challenger title at the $50,000 event in New Delhi by beating Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium 2-6 6-3 6-2 in the final. Having gone 0-4 in her previous challenger finals, Dzehalevich remained unnerved after losing the first set and used her aggressive baseline game to take the last two sets convincingly. Despite the loss, it’s apparent that Asia has been good to Wickmayer; she went 22-2 during the Asian swing last fall and racked up three challenger titles.

Las Palmas De Gran Canaria was the home to the first of two $25,000 events in Spain this month. Cheyenne Ewijk, a wild card entry from the Netherlands, came out of nowhere to win the first challenger title of her career; she beat Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium in a nail-biting 4-6 7-6 7-6 final. Ewijk, who has spent time training at Brenda Schultz McCarthy’s academy in the Netherlands, moves up over 200 spots with this win to land just outside of the top 400. For Flipkens, her performance this week marks another important step in her comeback from an injury which kept her out of action for over six months in 2007. Both Ewijk and Flipkens will compete in the main draw of the $25,000 event held next week in Tenerife.

At the $25,000 event in Kalgoorie, Yi-Miao Zhou of China swept through the draw before defeating Ellen Barry of New Zealand 7-5 6-2 in the final. The Chinese teenager has only played a limited schedule since she first started competing professionally in 2005 and this was her first tournament outside of China. Zhou will crack the top 400 for the first time in her career after this tournament. Despite the loss, Barry has been on a hot streak as of late; she won her first pro event at the $10,000 tournament in Hamilton last week last week and has now reached her first challenger final. Both girls will compete at the next Australian $25,000 event in Sorrento.

It’s been a long time coming for Ivan Miranda of Peru. Six years after winning his last challenger title (fittingly, at this same event in 2002), the 28 year old finally did it again at the $35,000 event in Salinas when he overwhelmed Diego Junqueira of Argentina 6-2 6-2 in the final. Miranda, whose ranking has slipped to #295 as a result of injuries and poor form, will look to use this tournament as a springboard to get back to the level of play which saw him just outside of the top 100 in 2003. Despite the loss, this was Junqueira’s first challenger final in two years and one of the best weeks of his career.

2008 has gotten off a great start for Marcel Granollers-Pujol of Spain. He qualified for his first ever Australian Open at the beginning of the year and then reached his first ever ATP quarterfinal recently in Acapulco. Granollers-Pujol has now won his first challenger title of the year by beating fellow Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver of Spain 6-4 6-4 in the final. Granollers-Pujol moves into the top 200 with this win and looks to be a sure bet to continue progressing in the rankings with his fine form so far this year. The same can also be said of Gimeno-Traver, who won the first ATP match of his career last month in Vina del Mar.

The spotlight turns to the men this week with the $100,000 event in Sunrise. With a cutoff ranking of #71, this tournament could easily pass for an ATP event. Ivo Karlovic of Croatia, ranked #21 in the world, is the top seed in this event. The draws are also still being made for the $50,000 event in San Luis Potosi, as well as $35,000 events in Meknes and Sarajevo. On the women’s side, several $25,000 events are taking place this week. Iona-Raluca Olaru of Romania, fresh off pushing Ana Ivanovic to three sets in Indian Wells this week, is the top seed at the $25,000 event in Redding. Tzipi Obziler of Israel is the top seed at the $25,000 event in Tenerife, Yanina Wickmayer leads the pack at the $25,000 event in Noida, Anna Lapushchenkova of Russia will hope to make the local fans happy at the $25,000 event in St. Petersburg, and Monique Adamczak of Australia takes top billing at the $25,000 tournament in Sorrento.

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