Van Uytvanck with good start

27.09.2021    Views: 1406
Source: KTF press-service
Courtney Walsh

When Alison van Uytvanck walked off a Chicago court after playing Emma Raducanu in August, she was certain her conqueror would one day be a grand slam champion.
But the Belgian, who opened her Astana Open campaign with a 6-3 6-4 win over Zhibek Kulambayeva on Monday, could not have imagined the success would happen so swiftly for her rival.

«I knew she was good. I saw her playing when she was only 15 against my girlfriend and I was like, ‘Woah. She is already hitting clean and has a good head on the court, a good mentality’,» she said.

«I knew that playing her was a tough match. It was a good match. But I didn’t expect her to win the US Open though.
«I thought she was going to win it in maybe two or three years but not, like, immediately. But it is great. It is nice to see her grow after what happened at Wimbledon.»
It is not just Raducanu’s historic US Open triumph that has impressed the 27-year-old, who was beaten in 7-6 (7) 6-3 in the first round of the Chicago Challenger by the English star.

Rather van Uytvanck said the manner with which the teenager discussed the performance anxiety she suffered in the fourth round at Wimbledon, and her ability to bounce back from that moment, was important.

Mental wellbeing, be it in sport or broader society, is being discussed more broadly, with WTA Tour stars including Naomi Osaka and Raducanu detailing their experiences this year. The Belgian, who has suffered from performance anxiety in the past, said it was invaluable when those with the platform of her tour peers  opened up about issues given the assistance it can provide others.

She recently watched the documentary titled «Untold», in which former ATP Tour star Mardy Fish discloses the extreme difficulty he battled in the latter stages of a career that was on the rise when he was stricken by mental illness.

«It has been taboo to talk about it, to not openly talk about it,» van Uytvanck said.
«I saw the documentary with Mardy and I think it is tough for non-tennis players to know what is going on in a tennis player’s mind and the pressure that we are having and what comes with it. The anxiety on court and off it. People have it but we handle the pressure on top of it.

«I have been there myself, having some issues, and I think it is nice that we have somebody like that who can speak about it and show the world that, ‘Hey, I am strong enough to come back even stronger and to win the tournament’.

«It is not easy, but being able to have that documentary, and Osaka and Emma Raducanu speaking about it and being aware about it, makes it easier for all of us to talk about it and to feel more comfortable and hopefully to get the best help possible.»

The comeback in Chicago this week of a contemporary of Fish, and a compatriot of van Uytvanck, has also caught the eye of the Astana Open second seed. She grew up idolizing four-time major champion Kim Clijsters and is excited to see what the 38-year-old can do in a WTA Tour event in Illinois this week.

«It is interesting. It is nice to have a player who I was looking up to when I was a small kid (back playing),» she said.
«When she was winning the slams and all this, I was waking up to watch her matches. It is nice being on the court myself, trying to win matches, and she is actually trying again.
«I don’t know how her level is. I don’t know how she is feeling physically. I think she is enjoying herself on court, so I think that is the most important thing for her.»

Finding her best form is something van Uytvanck is hopeful of doing after a testing North American swing that included the tight loss to Raducanu. The winner of four WTA Tour titles felt she performed well in the Tokyo Olympics but had little luck against quality opponents in America.

The world No. 89, who will play Anna-Lena Friedsam in the second round in Nur-Sultan, said her win over the Kazakhstan wildcard Kulambayeva was a positive step.
«I was kind of nervous in the beginning, not being able to win a lot of matches lately,» she said.

«I was maybe putting too much pressure on myself and playing her at home. But I think she played a great match. She didn’t have anything to lose and you saw that. Her shots were clean.
«I am just happy to be through in two sets and I think the level raised a bit in the second set, which was good. I hope I can get some more confidence each match.»

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