Marina Erakovic finally fulfills her potential
Aucklander picks up first WTA singles titleDAVID LONG
Now that Marina Erakovic has won her first title, she faces the task of coming through on a deal she made with her coach Christian Zahalka, to jump out of an aircraft.
Erakovic beat Sabine Lisicki in the final of the WTA tournament in Memphis yesterday, with the German pulling out because of illness after dropping the first set 6-1.
There was no indication that Lisicki was unwell during the 27 minutes of action and it was only when she called for the doctor at the change of ends that it seemed something was up.
After a couple of minutes, Lisicki got out of her chair, walked to the umpire and shook hands, signalling her retirement.
Erakovic was talking with Zahalka when it happened and said she was stunned at realising she had won her maiden WTA tournament.
"I had no idea there was something wrong," Erakovic said.
"That's why when she shook the umpire's hand I was wondering what was going on.
"Then I gave my coach a hug but it was all very weird. It wasn't until I held the trophy in my hand and they unveiled my name on the board [of champions] that what had happened sank in, so it was a weird feeling."
Erakovic becomes the first New Zealander since Belinda Cordwell, in Singapore in 1989, to win a WTA title.
When Erakovic made it to the semifinal of the ASB Classic in 2008 it showed she had the potential to win a title but, until yesterday, it was always a step too far for her.
So after years of grinding it out on the professional circuit the 24-year-old said it was an emotional experience to finally be able to call herself a champion.
"It just feels incredible and it's something that I've been working hard towards," Erakovic said.
"This is my third final; sometimes you wonder if this will ever happen and I still don't think it's sunk in yet.
"I am sure when I wake up in the morning I will be one happy girl."
But what Erakovic does have to do now is make good a bet she had with Zahalka.
"We have been together for a few years now and we do a really good job," she said.
"We made a bet that if we win a WTA title, we are going to jump out of a plane.
"Knowing Chris, it is going to happen and now I am shaking in my boots a bit. If they give me the option that I can push him out of the plane, I'll do it."
Being as this was Memphis, the music capital of America, it was apt that the trophy was a cross between a tennis racket and a guitar.
"When they brought it out, I thought they must be joking - did they know I played the guitar," Erakovic laughed.
"It's like it was meant to be; it's a terrific trophy and I think it's going to have a very nice place on my cabinet."
Erakovic's next tournaments are Indian Wells, Miami and Charleston before she heads to Europe for the clay court season.