June 14, 2024

Open Court


Wozniak and el Tabakh meet again

The last time they met – and even then, it had been seven years since they last shared a competitive tennis court – was in the first round of the 2012 French Open.

Aleksandra Wozniak was in the main draw, ranked No. 57, and needed to win the match to cement a spot at the London Olympics to be held later that summer. This was before all of her shoulder woes, her absence from the game and her current comeback.

For Heidi el Tabakh, it was almost like a broken record. She had a leg injury that just wouldn’t heal, had taken a break from the game, and had worked hard enough in the minor leagues to earn herself a spot in the Roland Garros qualifying, where she won three matches and the right to face Wozniak.

El Tabakh beat a player no one had heard of at the time, in the final round of qualifying. Camila Giorgi has since gotten some attention.

Here are some pics of that match.

And here are some pieces From the old Open Court blog at the Montreal Gazette about what Wozniak and el Tabakh expected going in, and how it all turned out (a straight-set win by Wozniak). The two, of similar age (el Tabakh is almost exactly a year older), share some old history together.

Flash forward nearly two years, and the two will meet in the final round of qualifying at the Monterrey Open Monday.

Wozniak, still climbing back from her injury hiatus but with her protected ranking period now expired, is ranked No. 172 and has to deal with scheduling herself with that true ranking. That means qualifying.

El Tabakh, who is now 27, is currently ranked No. 248.

She has played almost constantly the last nine months – we’re not even kidding. From the beginning of July to the end of 2013, she played 17 tournaments.  Last September, she was outside the top 400. This is her eighth tournament in 2014.

But when you’re playing $25K and $50K events, it takes an awfully long time to get where you want to go. In Port St. Lucie, Fla. in January, for example, el Tabakh came all the way through the qualifying of the $25,000 tournament and reached the final, where she lost to young countrywoman Françoise Abanda. That’s eight singles matches, just over $2,000 in prize money … and it moved her ranking from No. 293 to No. 265.

That’s crazy stuff.

In other words, Monday’s match means a whole lot to both.

But with her current ranking, el Tabakh could very well make the cut for the French Open qualifying in May. Which would bring her back full circle. It would be great to see all that hard work rewarded.

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