Fruhvirtova: Belief In Herself Is Translating Into Big Wins

Linda Fruhvirtova (photo: WTA Tour video)

CHARLESTON, S.C./WASHINGTON, April 6, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Sixteen-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic christened the renovated stadium court at the WTA 500 Credit One Charleston Open in Charleston, S.C., with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Croatia’s Ana Konjuh Monday on the green clay of Daniel Island. It’s a moment she won’t soon forget.

It was the wild card Fruhvirtova’s fifth Top 100 win and fourth in her past two tournaments.

“I’m really honored I was selected to play the first match on this beautiful stadium in this beautiful city,” Fruhvirtova said during her on-court interview that followed her victory that kicked off the tournament’s 50th edition. “It’s a real honor for me. I’m so happy to get the opportunity.”

A year ago, Fruhvirtova reached the quarterfinals of a WTA 250 pop-up event, the MUSC Health Women’s Open with victories over French veteran Alizé Cornet and NCAA singles champion and wild card Emma Navarro of the United States before losing to eventual champion Astra Sharma of Australia. At the time, then just 15, Fruhvirtova was the youngest player in the WTA Top 400 rankings.

Now, 12 months later, Fruhvirtova is coming off an impressive round of 16 showing at the Miami Open, in which she earned her first WTA 1000 victory against Danka Kovinic of Montenegro and also beat two seeded players, No. 20 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium and No. 12 seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, before losing to World No. 3 Paula Badosa of Spain, who was seeded fifth. It boosted her ranking to a career-high ranking of 188th.

The 5-foot-8-inch, right-handed hitting Fruhvirtova struck nine winners against Konjuh, 24, and outpointed her 90-75. She converted four of eight break points and was broken just once during the one-hour and 49-minute match at Credit One Stadium.

“It was important for me to forget the first set and keep fighting and keep trying to find a way to win. I’m glad I found a way,” Fruhvirtova admitted.

After finishing 2021 ranked 279th, which included winning a pair of International Tennis Federation $15K hard-court titles in Monastir, Tunisia, Fruhvirtova began the new season biding her time by playing in a trio of ITF events in France, Mexico and the United States. The Czech teen won the middle of the three, a $25K hard-court event in Cancun, Mexico. She completing her five wins without dropping a set, including the title triumph over Canada’s Rebecca Marino, 6-3, 6-4.

Fruhvirtova was asked about transitioning from the hard courts of the Miami Open to the green clay at Charleston and what kinds of adjustments she’s had to make.

“I think the transition from hard courts to green clay is easier than straight to red clay,” Fruhvirtova said. “This surface fits me. I like to play on green clay. It wasn’t a problem for me.”

Fruhvirtova’s victory over the 52nd-ranked Konjuh marked the first time this year she’s come back to win a tour-level match after losing the first set. Her serve was in danger just twice.

Next, Fruhvirtova will play No. 10 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, ranked 21st, who advanced over No. 153 Wang Xiyu of China, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3, on Tuesday afternoon. It will be another opportunity for her to measure her game against a Top-25 opponent.

“Yeah, Linda’s a great player,” Bencic told Tennis Channel. The Swiss star enjoyed a breakout tournament at Charleston in 2014 as a 17-year-old herself. “She has a lot of confidence and is on fire. It’s definitely going to be a tough match. I know her a little bit from practicing together. I always knew she’s going to make it on the WTA Tour. I’m looking forward [to playing her].”

When asked to describe where she gets the courage to play against more experienced opponents, Fruhvirtova said, “It feels unbelievable. These are the matches and the moments I’ve always worked hard for. It’s a great motivation to keep working hard and keep believing [in myself]. I’m enjoying it.”

Hailey Baptiste: A rising star among a crowded field of Americans

It’s been three years since 20-year-old Hailey Baptiste made her memorable WTA debut in her hometown of Washington, D.C. She defeated fellow American Madison Keys, who was ranked in the Top 20 at the time, in the first round of the Citi Open. Fast forward and Baptiste, who was ranked 283rd when she upset Keys, recently achieved a career-high ranking of No. 119. Earlier this year, she also won a round at the Australian Open after gaining a berth through qualifying with three quality wins.

Now, the 122nd-ranked Baptiste, a right-hander who is ninth on tour in service aces and also possesses a powerful two-fisted backhand, has won her first-round match for the second straight year in Charleston.

On Tuesday, Baptiste scored an impressive 6-3, 6-0 win over No. 57 Elena-Gabriela Ruse of Romania in just 62 minutes to move into the second round against No. 36 Alizé Cornet of France. Against Ruse, Baptiste hit four aces and won 69 percent (20 of 29) of her first-serve points. Her serve was broken just once. She converted five break points and outpointed Ruse 58-34.

“I was super nervous going into the first round; it’s pretty normal,” Baptiste admitted during an interview with Tennis Channel following her match. “I think I really controlled my nerves in the first set and handled myself pretty smoothly through the end of the match.”

The future looks bright for the young American, who is one of 19 from the United States playing this week in the Charleston Open. In all competitions this season, which also includes playing in a couple of ITF Women’s Circuit events in the U.S., she’s compiled a 13-8 win-loss record.

“I’ve changed my mentality a bit. I’ve become more serious with my career,” admitted Baptiste, who went 18-21 in 2021. “I’m just trying to improve every day. It’s starting to pay off. I still have a lot of work to do, but I think I’m heading in the right direction.”

Growing up in the nation’s capital city, Baptiste has developed a friendship with fellow American Frances Tiafoe, who grew up playing in nearby College Park, Md. “He’s always been someone I’ve looked up to,” she said.

“Since I was six-years-old, he’s always been in the spotlight in College Park. Now that we’re both playing on tour, it’s been super amazing. Whenever I need advice, I’m super comfortable talking with him. He’s like my older brother. It’s really good to have him. He’s always encouraging me.”

Althea Gibson Club Court: The best little court in tennis

The Althea Gibson Club Court, the second show court at the Credit One Charleston Open, provides one of the most intimate settings in pro tennis. It is surrounded by lush landscape and century-old oak trees, which highlight the charm and beauty of the South Carolina lowcountry.

Last Saturday, the Althea Gibson Club Court was rededicated in honor of the South Carolina native and tennis Hall of Fame great, Althea Gibson, who was the first African American tennis player to win a Grand Slam as well as the first African American to compete at Wimbledon. Gibson won 11 major titles and was consistently ranked in the Top 10.

Raising money for a good cause: Ukrainian Relief Effort

Over the weekend, current WTA stars including Americans Madison Keys, Jessica Pegula and Shelby Rogers, and Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina, along with Hall of Famers Tracy Austin and Pam Shriver – plus 24 local club-level players – helped raise money for relief efforts in Ukraine in a special pro-am event at the Credit One Charleston Open.

Pro-am participants pledged a total of $50,000, which was matched by the tournament. The donations will be filtered through the tour’s non-profit wing, WTA Charities.

Around the Charleston Open

No. 13 seed and 2016 tournament winner Sloane Stephens of the United States was out-dueled by 19-year-old Chinese player Zheng Qinwen, ranked 72nd, who in her Charleston debut garnered the first Top-50 win of her career with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-0 victory Tuesday on the stadium court. A mid-match rain delay stopped play for about 20 minutes. Zheng overcame 31 unforced errors by hitting 20 winners and outpointed Stephens 87-73.

Other Tuesday afternoon winners moving into the second round: Lauren Davis, Magda Linette, wild card Emma Navarro, lucky loser Coco Vandeweghe, Yulia Putintseva and Alison Riske.

However, due to severe inclement weather – including the threat of a possible tornado – the Credit One Charleston Open cancelled its Tuesday night session, which was to have included matches involving No. 9 seed Madison Keys and No. 6 seed Jessica Pegula.

Tuesday’s Charleston Open results

Wednesday’s Charleston Open order of play

By the numbers

The Credit One Charleston Open, the largest women’s-only tournament in North America, is celebrating its 50th edition at Live to Play Daniel Island in South Carolina. The tournament has been won by past and future Hall of Famers Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Martina Hingis, Justine Henin, Venus Williams and Serena Williams.

“Quotable …”

“Definitely not the outcome I wanted tonight. I guess I have to say the cliche: ‘It’s not how many times you fall, it’s how many times you get back up.’

“When you walk out on court and you hear fans cheering my name, it’s really special. You can always learn from your losses … even ones like tonight.

– No. 44 Shelby Rogers, a Charleston, S.C. native, who lost her first-round match to Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, 6-7 (2), 7-5, 6-2, after serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set Monday night.