Kiwi tennis ace Marina Erakovic has declared herself "ready to go", hoping to launch 2013 in style at New Zealand's international women's event in Auckland next week.
Back from a three-week training stint at Boca Roca, in Florida, where her coach Christian Zahalka is based, the 24-year-old Aucklander hopes a new approach will pay early dividends.
"The last four to five years I've stayed home during the off season and done my fitness work but the tennis element was always missing," Erakovic said of preparing to open her new season in New Zealand at the ASB Classic.
Now she feels she has a good tennis base behind her after her boot camp in Florida.
"There was a good tennis environment . . . a lot of good players there. I got to work hard with my coach, it went really well. I'm healthy at the moment, I've had a good training block . . . I'm ready to go."
While Erakovic describes 2012 as "a bit of an up-and- down year", her stats show it was a very solid effort and one she should be able to springboard from. She reached career-high rankings of 39 in singles and 42 in doubles, earned US$315,228 (NZ$383,850) to close in on the magical US$1 million mark for her career, and won 20 singles matches and 17 doubles matches. She reached the singles final of a full WTA event in Memphis and claimed two doubles titles with her British partner Heather Watson.
Basically, Erakovic established herself on her sport's biggest stage and every time she played, she loomed as a threat to form players.
"I feel each year I have been improving, making my game bigger, getting faster. I feel like I know my game now and what I want to do," she said. "I want to build on it, become stronger, hit harder and bigger, and that comes with a lot of practice but a lot of matches as well.
"The forehand is always going to be the weapon and building that serve up as well. You're always looking to move better and get to balls that you might not have before.
"It's just building on my game, maybe getting to the net a bit more, bringing that serve a bit bigger, and using that forehand."
While Erakovic's singles ranking has slipped to 66 on the back of an injury that affected her final phase of this year, she's well placed in an even field for the US$220,000 New Zealand tournament.
She said Auckland had done well to hold the strength of its field considering a new US$500,000 tournament had gone head to head with it in China and Brisbane had bumped its prizemoney up to US$1m for its event in the same week.
- © Fairfax NZ News