The more I watch Slovakian-born tennis player, Daniela HantuchovÃ?Â¡, the more I can see her Grand Slam dreams possibly coming to fruition one day soon.
HantuchovÃ?Â¡ made her breakthrough in 2002 beating the then world number one, Martina Hingis, in straight sets in the final at Indian Wells. This win catapulted her onto the world stage, with Ace Tennis Magazine even touting her as being the next contender for the Williams sisters’ throne.
In the same year, she reached the quarter finals of Wimbledon and the US Open. She also reached the quarter finals at the following year’s Australian Open. And even though HantuchovÃ?Â¡ was unable to add another singles title to the one at Indian Wells, consistent performances enabled her to reach a career high of #5 in the world (she was the first ever Slovak women to reach this level).
In 2003, at Wimbledon, however, HantuchovÃ?Â¡ suffered the most public of breakdowns during her match with Shinobu Asagoe in the second round. She lost the match 10-12 in the final set and was seen crying between points as early as the 14th game. She continued to cry after the match, and suffered a sudden dip in her form in subsequent matches.
She also suffered significant weight loss during 2003 and into 2004. Her breakdown at Wimbledon was widely believed to be due to not being able to deal with such high hopes at such a young age, but it was later revealed that HantuchovÃ?Â¡ was trying to keep the media spotlight from her parents, who were going through a divorce at the time.
In 2004 HantuchovÃ?Â¡ showed a rise in her fortunes when she reached the final at Eastbourne. This was to be a turning point in her career, as she pulled herself out of the low 60s in her ranking, finishing the year inside the top 30, despite a setback right at the end of the year when she was surprisingly defeated in Quebec by unknown Canadian Melanie Gloria, a player ranked outside the top 1,000.
In 2005, HantuchovÃ?Â¡ had her best year since her breakthrough in 2002, getting to the final of Los Angeles and also reaching 3 semifinals and 6 quarterfinals on the WTA tour while finishing the year inside the top 20.
In 2006, what promised to be a good year started well with HantuchovÃ?Â¡ reaching the quarter finals of Sydney and the semifinals of Auckland, as well as shocking the tennis world at the Australian Open with her 6-1, 7-6 (5) victory over defending champion and seven-time Grand Slam tournament champion Serena Williams, before losing to fourth-seeded Maria Sharapova in straight sets.
Since then, she has been unable to find a consistent level of form, not winning back-to-back matches at tour level, though she reached the fourth round at the French Open and Wimbledon. She returned to Fed Cup duty and in July 2006 led the Slovak Republic to a 5-0 shellacking of Thailand.
HantuchovÃ?Â¡ ‘s biggest successes so far have come in mixed doubles. In this event, she won the 2001 Wimbledon with LeoÃ?Â¡ Friedl, the 2002 Australian Open with Kevin Ullyett, the 2005 Roland Garros with Fabrice Santoro, and 2005 US Open with Mahesh Bhupathi.
She was runner-up in the 2002 Wimbledon with Ullyett, and reached the semifinals at the French Open in 2004 with Todd Woodbridge. At the 2005 U.S. Open, HantuchovÃ?Â¡ completed a career mixed doubles Grand Slam with Bhupathi when they beat Katarina Srebotnik & Nenad Zimonjic in the final in straight sets 6-4, 6-2.
HantuchovÃ?Â¡’s other achievements include winning eight doubles titles (as of May 21 2006). HantuchovÃ?Â¡ currently plays doubles with Ai Sugiyama, with some fans affectionately referring to the team as ‘Hantuyama’. They have won 3 titles together in Rome, Doha, and Birmingham as well as reaching the final at Roland Garros in 2006. ‘Hantuyama’ won ‘Fans favorite doubles team 2005’ at the Stars for Stars in Miami.
HantuchovÃ?Â¡’s best Grand Slam singles achievements so far have been playing in the quarterfinals in 2002 at Wimbledon and at the U.S. Open, and in 2003 at the Australian Open, but who knows, when her elusive first Grand Slam singles title will come?
I certainly won’t be shocked when it happens – although her opponent may be.