At every Grand Slam, there are surprises, players to discover or rediscover, veterans getting a second wind, and youngsters who are pushing to make a name for themselves on both Tours. One of them is a young woman who is not known except by those who have been following juniors for quite some time and she really is the player who has reconciled me with women’s tennis, because of the craftiness of her game and the loveliness of her personality.
Paula Ormaechea – the future of women’s tennis in Argentina
Many of you know I’ve stopped being a fan of the WTA since the rise of the power-hitters and the turn of most of the women’s game into an outpowering contest. Of course, there are some exceptions, like Svetlana Kuznetsova or Francesca Schiavone, and now Petra Kvitova, but the majority of what I was seeing discouraged me of watching even these players on a regular basis.
However, a friend of mine, who actually knew about how much I don’t like WTA tennis and despite that fact, told me about this young player he’s known for several years now. From the moment of our first conversation, my friend Diego, a tennis-crazy Argentine, told me of Paula Ormaechea, telling me about he talent and how he thought she would go very, very far.
I trust him, so I decided to look her up, and I was not disappointed. All the contrary. The craftiness and intelligence of her game, her fighting spirit (garra, in Spanish), but also her lively personality, quickly made me follow her career very closely and I must admit that she quickly became one of my favourite players.
Reaching her first WTA main draw (as a qualifier) in Bad Gastein a few months ago, she lost her first-round match in two tiebreak sets to veteran Spaniard María José Martínez Sánchez. After finishing the year on the ITF Circuit, the plan was to start 2012 at the Australian Open qualifications. However, in order to gather experience, she tried to enter as an alternate in the build-up tournaments, failing to enter the Auckland qualifications and the losing in the second round of the qualifications in Sydney. She then made her way to play her first Grand Slam event in Melbourne.
And what a first!
In the qualifications, she first faced no 7 seed Coco Vandeweghe, whom she defeated with relative ease, before fighting her way through a tough second round against Su-Wei Hsieh, before causing an immense surge of joy in her home country by defeating 19th seed Yvonne Meusburger in two sets to qualify for her first Grand Slam tournament. It was the first time in five years that an Argentinian woman accessed the main draw of a Grand Slam via the qualification. Thus joining Gisela Dulko in the main draw, it is the first time since 2008 that there is more than one Argentine woman in the main draw of the Australian Open.
Monday, in very tricky conditions, she defeated Romanian Simona Halep, the 50th player in the world, in her first career Grand Slam main draw match. The match was not on a show court, and following it via live scores was really a torture, as it was impossible to know what was happening.
However, if there is one thing I noticed by following the match as well via Twitter, it is the unity that Paula creates among tennis fans in Argentina, as everyone was behind her, cheering her, encouraging her, and all this without seeing any ball flying on the court. A great and very emotional moment, especially when her 6-1 3-6 7-5 win was in the bag.
Then and there, the 19-year-old rightfully became a national sensation and many will follow her performances closely, especially in a country where women’s tennis has been deprived for many years. Ormaechea, along with Florencia Molinero (88), Mailén Auroux (88), Vanesa Furlanetto (87), and María Irigoyen (87), are among the brightest prospects of women’s tennis in Argentina . For the little story, Molinero and Irigoyen won the gold medal in doubles at the last Pan American Games.
In the wee hours of the middle of the night, just after her countryman David Nalbandian will have finished fighting John Isner for a place in the third round on MCA, Ormaechea will face no 8 seed Agnieszka Radwanska, the biggest challenge of her young career so far. I can guarantee one thing of this match: win or lose, Ormaechea will fight from the first point to the last and use every ounce of her aggressive playing style to try and defeat her first top-10 opponent.
Paula is another member of the very talented “class of ’92”, a class that also includes players such as Bernard Tomic, Ryan Harrison, and young upcoming players like Facundo Argüello, Renzo Olivo, Agustín Velotti, and Andrea Collarini, to name only a few.
- Born on September 28, 1992, in Sunchales, Santa Fe, Argentina
- Moved to Buenos Aires, alone, at the age of 13
- Her dream is to be World no 1
- Great admirer of the Williams Sisters, particularly Serena, although except for some of their matches, she doesn’t watch WTA tennis
- Coached by Federico Paskvan
- Made her debut at 14 years old, in a Buenos Aires Women’s circuit
- Got her first WTA point in 2008
- Ranked 194 at the beginning of the tournament, she is now assured of a ranking around 140, which will enable her to enter the qualifications in Indian Wells and Miami
Get to know her more
Here is the interview she gave to Miguel Simón shortly after her first-round win:
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Follow Paula on Twitter
Source for the fast facts: Paula Ormaechea’s profile on the WTA Tour, projected ranking info thanks to Marcos Zugasti
Photos (from her first-round match): PJ Yeong
Credit for making me discover Paula in the first place: Diego Amuy