Elise Mertens is a Belgian tennis player whose accurate backhand and all-round competence have convinced many that she is destined for great things.
Continuing in the footsteps of her legendary countrywomen Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters, Mertens has achieved a lot of success with her smooth shot-making and easy power. She made the whole world sit up and take notice of her talent when she reached the 2018 Australian Open semifinal seemingly out of nowhere, and has put up consistent results ever since.
Best finish at each of the four Grand Slams:
Australian Open: Semifinalist (2018)
French Open: 4th Round (2018)
Wimbledon: 3rd Round (2018)
US Open: 4th Round (2018)
Highest Ranking: No. 13
Style of play
Mertens is an aggressive player who likes to take the ball early and whack it into the corners off both wings.
She has a first-strike mentality, and hits flat and hard whenever she gets a neutral ball in a rally. She doesn't vary the pace of her play too much, but can come up with delicate slices and drop shots on occasion.
Mertens also approaches the net to finish points set up by her big groundstrokes, and has a particular affinity to the swing volley.
Strengths and weaknesses
Mertens' backhand has earned widespread praise for its unique combination of power and accuracy, and it has become a deadly weapon for her. Capable of hitting it on the rise and changing direction effortlessly, Mertens stunned everyone with the shot during her maiden Slam semifinal run at Melbourne 2018.
The Belgian also has a big forehand, but it is considerably more erratic than her backhand. Her serve is similarly temperamental; while she can earn quite a few free points when her first serve is clicking, she can sometimes dig a hole for herself with her inconsistent second serve.
Mertens is not the quickest around the court, but not the slowest either. She has good lateral movement which enables her to stay close to the baseline even while defending, but her forward movement can sometimes leave a little to be desired.
Mertens was born in Leuven, Belgium, but currently lives in Hamont-Achel. Her father Guido works on crafting furniture for churches, while mother Liliane is a teacher who specializes in language and history.
Mertens was home-schooled, and her mother's proficiency with languages helped her become fluent with as many as three languages: English, Dutch and French.
She was introduced to tennis by her sister Lauren when she was four years old, and went on to become a trainee at the Belgian Tennis Federation. She was also coached by the Mouratoglou Academy in Paris for a year, and arrived on the pro tour fully prepared.
Mertens' idols while growing up were, unsurprisingly, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin - two of the most successful tennis players in Belgium's history.
Mertens' progress on the WTA tour has been slow and steady, but her demolition of Elina Svitolina in the 2018 Australian Open quarterfinal signaled that she was ready to take the next step. Many believe her backhand is good enough for her to be a constant threat to all the top players in the years to come.
Social media presence:
Elise Mertens Instagram: @mertenselise
Elise Mertens Twitter: @elise_mertens