Rarely has Marina Erakovic been able to show the composure, confidence and quality in her game that she has over the past month.
Yesterday at Wimbledon the New Zealand No 1 defeated 24th seed Peng Shaui, 7-6 6-2 to reach the third round for the first time since 2008.
Erakovic has now made it to the third round in her last three tournaments - Roland Garros, Birmingham and Wimbledon - and even if she loses tonight her world ranking will still jump from 91 to about 60.
Erakovic is a player who lives and dies by her forehand and against the defensively minded Peng it was magnificent.
Peng was all about getting everything back and waiting for a mistake from her opponent. It wasn't a surprising tactic, Erakovic does make a lot of unforced errors, but that's just part of her aggressive approach. And when it pays off, like it has recently, defensive baseliners have no response.
A ground stroke to one corner, then a rip-through forehand down the other was usually enough to win the points against Peng. But what was also impressive was her mental strength. No longer is Erakovic freezing on the big occasions.
There were around 3000 spectators in court No 2 for the match and nerves have been known to get the better of her in such surroundings.That doesn't seem to be the case any more. She stay composed as she defended three set points in the first set and was ruthless in the second, breaking early and then served superbly.
Erakovic was fortunate the match finished just before the rain came, especially as the next match due on that court was between the two players looking to play her in the next round, Britain's Laura Robson and Mariana Duque-Marino from Colombia.
Erakovic has played Robson once, beating her over three sets on the grass at Birmingham last year, while she has never played against Duque-Marino before.
If she plays Britain's big hope Robson, it's likely to be on centre court with an audience of millions. If it's Duque-Marino, it'll be stuck out back somewhere.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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