Ashley Harkleroad may have made her initial splash in the sporting public’s eye in 2001 when she wore extra-tight shorts and a midriff-baring top during her match at the U.S. Open in New York, but Harkleroad has been a known entity in tennis circles for years now and has certainly come a long way since losing that first round matchup.
Harkleroad turned pro in 2000 and in both 2000 and 2001, she reached the number one ranking in U.S. women’s 18-and-under tennis. She made her official Grand Slam debut at age 16 at the 2001 U.S. Open, losing to Meilan Tu in the first round in a tough three-set match.
2002 saw her win her first tour matches, reaching the second round at San Diego, Hawaii, and Bratislava, where she made her first doubles semifinal with partner Maria Emilia Salerni. She ended 2002 in the top 200 for the first time.
Harkleroad’s breakthrough year was in 2003, when at Charleston, she defeated three top 20 players at the time (No.16 Elena Bovina, No.19 Meghann Shaughnessy, and No.9 Daniela HantuchovÃ?Â¡), while losing just 11 games along the way to reach her first WTA tour semifinal.
She became the lowest ranked semifinalist (No. 101) in the event’s history since unranked Jennifer Capriati reached the finals in 1990. After that performance, on April 14, 2003 she broke out from No.101 to climb to a No.56 ranking. She subsequently reached the semifinals again at Strasbourg and scored her second Top 10 win and second over Daniela HantuchovÃ?Â¡ at Roland Garros while reaching the third round and for the second time at a Grand Slam.
In June of 2003, she soared into the Top 50 at No.39 and reached the final in doubles at the Japan Open in Tokyo.
In 2004, she made her career first, Tour final at Auckland before eventually losing to defending champion Eleni Daniilidou.
For most of the 2005 season, Harkleroad sat out due to various injuries, but the time she was on court was spent on the ITF Women’s circuit winning 2 titles. She did however reach a tour doubles final at Quebec City.
This year, Harkleroad failed to qualify at Sydney before reaching the second round of the Australian Open (as a qualifier) where she pushed world number four, Maria Sharapova, in a tough match before being knocked out.
On her way however, she upset a higher ranked opponent- Shuai Peng of China. This performance saw Harkleroad finally break back into the top 100 at number 83.
As of July, Harkleroad is ranked in the WTA at number 88 in Singles.