A Croatian, 18-year-old, ranked 92nd in the world, was the talk of the town at Flushing Meadows on Tuesday after the spunky girl managed to upset women’s 4th seed Agnieszka Radwanska in the 4th round of the US Open 2016. In doing so, Ana Konjuh not only achieved her best showing at a Grand Slam but also announced herself in women’s tennis.
Even as she prepares to face Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals, let’s see who exactly is the highly-rated Croatian teenager.
A powerful stroke maker, Konjuh can be a nightmare to play against. She generates immense power in her groundstrokes, making it difficult for her opponents to return where they want to. In fact, Konjuh’s game is similar to Serena Williams and 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic is certain that she will get into the top-10 soon.
Surprisingly, Konjuh’s backhand is her lethal weapon though the forehand is certainly no pushover.
Born in 1997 at Dubrovnik in Croatia, Konjuh fell in love with the sport after going to pick tennis balls while her older sister practised. She showed promising signs soon and started making ripples on the junior circuit.
In December 2012, she won 2 prestigious junior tournaments – Eddie Herr and the Orange Bowl – which earmarked her as a precocious talent. The following year would be a breakthrough one for the 16-year-old Konjuh.
First, she won the singles and doubles junior titles at the Australian Open which saw her rise to No.1 in the junior rankings. She grabbed headlines soon when she was called up to the Croatian Fed Cup squad where she defeated then World No.37 Urszula Radwanska.
However, she was not done with a dream 2013 yet. She went on to win the junior US Open title as well to cap off a brilliant year and cemented herself as somebody to watch out for in the future.
Surprisingly, Konjuh decided to turn pro at the end of 2013 though she could have continued on the junior circuit for 2 more years. No doubt, the confidence from a brilliant season influenced her decision. Going by the evidence at Flushing Meadows this year, she won’t be regretting the decision.
Pro career so far:
Though an elbow injury sidelined her in January 2014, she came back strong and reached the 3rd round at Wimbledon before losing to Caroline Wozniacki. The impressive 16-year-old broke into the top-100 ranking by October 2014 and ended the season ranked 90th.
In 2015, she won her first WTA title at the Nottingham Aegon Open after defeating the likes of Shelby Rogers and Casey Dellacqua. In the process, she became the youngest player to win a main tour title since Tamira Paszek in 2006.
Though she started 2016 as the 87th ranked player in the world, she soon dropped out of the top-100 after several disappointing performances. But she would soon return after a good run in Wimbledon 2016 where she would lose to Agnieszka Radwanska in a 3-set thriller, in which the final set would end 9-7 in favour of the Pole.
But the teenager had her revenge when the pair came face to face in the 4th round in the ongoing US Open. The Croat had her revenge by demolishing the 4th seed 6-4, 6-4 in straight sets.
She showed that she was capable of learning from her mistakes when she revealed, "Last night I was replaying the match (Wimbledon loss) in my head. I had match points and I missed forehands on all of them. I just didn’t go for it. This time, I went for them.”
A huge FedEx fan !
Ana is a huge fan of 17-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer and will be hoping to emulate what he has done in men’s tennis to a certain degree at least. A highly offensive minded player, Konjuh wants to get into the top-50 by the year end and might just have done enough to do so.
Interestingly, Konjuh has a tattoo inked on her left wrist that reads ‘Faith’ after her Australian Open junior win in 2013 which she says is to remind her to keep faith in herself. She’s doing a pretty good job of doing that indeed.
Though majority of the success in Ana’s short career so far has come on the hard courts of Melbourne and New York, she lists grass as her favourite surface. No prizes for guessing her favourite slam as well. If she keeps up this level of improvement, the day is not far off when she would lay her hands on the prized Venus Rosewater Dish on the lawns in SW19.