By Matt Cronin
FROM THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA OPEN- Virginie Razzano calls herself a “champion,” Not necessarily a tennis champion, but a champion of life. She has bore through a number of difficult situations over the past three and a half years, including the death of her fiancée and coach, and then with a major hip injury that took her out of play after her stunning upset of Serena Williams at the 2012 Roland Garros. Her ranking plunged to No. 196, and in the first quarters of this year, there were not enough Challengers for her to enter so all she could do was practice, practice, and practice. But she didn’t become too impatient, kept her nose to the grindstone and never lost hope.
Now it’s paying off as she’s having her best tournament in three years with victories over Svetlana Kuznetsova, Carla Suarez-Navarro and on Friday, Petra Kvitova 6-7(6) 7-5 7-6(8) in three and a half hours to reach the semis.
“The success is a lot work,” she said. “There is not secret. I don’t want to be quickly and say, Okay, Virginie, you must to be quickly for comeback. No. I take my time. I’m practicing a lot. I stay with focus on my job, to work on my game and when you go on court. I think I am a champion. I am a champion, because it’s not easy for comeback every time if you have some problems with injuries or pressure of life.
I think I have a big character. I have a strong character and I’m never down. I am every time going up. It’s life. You can’t go down. You must to go and progress and do your job during your life.
If it’s professional life, you must to do your best. If I don’t think that, I prefer to stop and say, ‘Okay, this is finished for you, Virginie.’”
Her victory over the Czech was by no means a perfect match, in fact she needed five match points to win the contest and all were unforced errors: four by her and the final one by Kvitova on a double fault. Kvitova also held match points, two of them in the tiebreaker. On the first one she clunked a 76-MPH second serve by Razzano into the net and on the second one, when she couldn’t handle a serve into her wheelhouse.
The most hilarious match point was her second one when serving for the contest at 5-3. She tossed the too far to the left and instead of catching it, pushed the ball high up into the air, sort of a half lob, 90 an under super senior style serve that didn’t even register on the speed gun. It went way wide. Nerves were quite apparent.
“ I think if I serve with forehand it was the same. I prefer I think to serve with my forehand,” she said while laughing. “I can be better maybe. No, this way it was not very good, you know. Maybe next I can do that and I can surprise my adversary I don’t want to serve again like that, you know. (Laughter.) It’s the same if I play with my sister.”
Razzano is no slouch, having cracked the year-end top 20 in 2009. She’s won two titles and has taken plenty of big scalps including both Williams sisters, Martina Hingis, Elena Dementieva, Vera Zvonareva and Dinara Safina, Serena, Venus. She is a terrific mover, rock solid off the ground and she’s not without power. She usually stays within her playbook and isn’t very wild.
She is also far from a consummate closer, which is why she needed to go deep into the tiebreaker to win the contest instead shutting the Czech down earlier. Kvitova never looked tired – which is a great sign considering that can be a problem for her when matches grow late – but she was erratic and less than advantageous.
“I was nervous,” Razzano said. “I am human. It’s normal. I’m not a robot, you know. Sometimes you can feeling stress, emotion. I tried to focus on me, on my game and on my points when I’m feeling nervous. With my experience I know how you must to do for to win You must to progress and say, Okay, point after point, game after game, you go. I did my best for that and I think I do a good job.”
Razzano was given wild card into the tournament and she needed it with her No. 131 ranking. She hasn’t played badly over the past two months, reaching the third round of Roland Garros, qualifying for Wimbledon and then two weeks ago reaching the quarters of Gstaad on what she calls her worse surface – clay. But this is her first semifinal since she reached he final of 2009 Eastbourne and that’s a long time ago.
Razzano comes from humble origins: her father is a policeman and her mother is a nursery school teacher. They taught her that you get what you put into something and to keep battling, and that’s what she has continued to do.
She puts in an effort on court and off. When her boyfriend and former coach was dying of a brain tumor, she stood by him though thick and thin. At that time, she didn’t put her tennis first. She doesn’t totally separate her career from her other relationships and interests, and that makes her somewhat unique in the sport.
“For me, everything is very important in my life,” she said.
Ana Ivanovic pulled off an impressive 6-1 6-7(1) 6-2 over Roberta Vinci and then Samantha Stosur took down Agnieszka Radwanska 7-5 2-6 6-3, a darn good win for the Aussie, but Radwanska looks a little flat. In a very entertaining thriller on court 2, Abigail Spears and Raquel Kop-Jones overcame Martina Hingis/Daniela Hantuchova 4-6 7-5 10-3. Hingis and Hantuchova had two break points to go up 4-0 in the second set and as Martina said, when they couldn’t covert those, they opened the door up. Hingis is a brilliant player overall but she served poorly and if she can’t find way to spot her serve better they are going to struggle to win big tournaments. She had by far the weakest serve on court. Credit to Spears and Kop-Jones though: they are a long standing, talented, coordinated team. In some way I’m surprised they haven’t won a Slam yet.