With tennis dominating the headlines this past week thanks to the Maria Sharapova scandal, I decided to again select a current tennis player as my sport star of the week. She plies her trade on the WTA and is a former world number 5.
Born on the 23rd of April 1983 in Poprad, Slovakia, Hantuchova is currently ranked at 181 in the world.
She turned pro in 1999 at the age of 16 and had her breakthrough year in 2002. Beginning the year at 38 in the rankings following several good showings in the year previous (particularly in the doubles arena, where she picked up her first ever grand slam title playing alongside Friedl at Wimbledon in the mixed doubles) she lost in the third round of the Austrailian Open to Venus Williams. However, she claimed her second mixed doubles crown at the same event, signifying her presence, at only 18, as an elite doubles player.
In March of 2002, she claimed her first WTA singles victory at the Indian Wells Masters, beating world number 4, Martina Hingis in the final. Throughout the year she remained to be in the hunt come the later stages of tournaments. She lost in the quarters of Wimbledon to eventual winner Serena Williams, whilst also falling short in the final of the mixed doubles at SW19. Across the pond in the US Open, Hantuchova again succumbed to eventual winner Sernena Williams at the quarter-final stage. At the end of the year, the Slovak had ammased enough points to qualify for the illustrious Tour Championships, although she slipped to a first round defeat against Magdalena Maleeva.
After a series of quarter final appearences at the beginning of 2003, including at the Austrailian Open, Hantuchova found herself at a career high no.5 ranking. However, the remainder of the year proved to be quite the soap opera of events on and off the court for her. A noticible loss of weight sparked debate as to whether she could handle such success at only 19. Issues continued with her coach publicly questioning her attitude, as well as her parents seperating away from the court. She ended the year at no.17; a year that will be remembered for her breaking down at Wimbledon in a loss to Asagoe.
To date, Hantuchova has completed the career grand slam in mixed doubles, won 7 WTA events and 3 ITF tournaments as well as reaching the fouth round in all 4 grand slam events. In doubles she has claimed 9 WTA titles and 1 ITF title as well as reaching the quarter finals of all the slams. Added to this, she has experienced team success, winning the Fed Cup in 2002 and the Hopman Cup in 2005.
2016 has seen Hantuchova fall outside the top 100 for the first time since turning pro. Her inconsistent play coupled with injuries over the previous 5 years have led to her demise so to speak. In 2013, however, Hantuchova became only the 37th player to reach 500 career wins when she defeated Laura Robson at Eastborne.
Off the court she has appeared in several magazines, including Sports Illustrated and ESPN’s ‘The Body Issue’. She is widely considered to be a sex symbol within the sport but she has continuously played it down over the years.
After all that is said regarding her career, she will at least retire a 4 time grand slam champion ! Thank you Daniela.