After a 4 1/2-year break (and a failed marriage to Radek Stepanek), former world No. 7 Nicole Vaidisova returned to the court this fall.
She was on the practice court on Christmas Eve at the IMG Academy.
It wasn’t exactly an intense practice. It didn’t last more than an hour and from what we saw, she didn’t move a lot or push it physically.
And given she was practicing on Har-Tru, there was obviously no intention of heading Down Under, perhaps trying to get some wild cards in WTA Tour events. Clearly, she’s not ready. Vaidisova had been in Prague, and only got back to it less than two weeks ago.
Here are some pics and a little video of her on the court.
She had a few wins, and at least got a ranking back up on the board. Vaidisova is currently at No. 601. The best player she defeated was Veronica Cepede Royg, ranked No. 135.
Vaidisova’s lost all the baby fat – she looks all grown up, no longer the ingenue. She’s long and lean, taller than you sort of remember and looks very fit. Maybe a little on the thin side.
What was surprising in watching her up close again was how mechanical her strokes looked – particularly on the backhand, where she has the exaggerated early takeback and open stance that Venus Williams uses, which Serena Williams used to have before tweaking that side somewhat.
Just a few metres away at the IMG Academy, on a hard court, was the player Vaidisova lost to in her last match before her long break away from the game. Great Britain’s Heather Watson defeated Vaidisova in the first round of a $25,000 tournament in Hammond, Louisiana in March, 2010. The score was 4-6, 7-6 (10), 7-6 (4) . Watson, a qualifier, was ranked No. 484 at the time.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to chat with her beyond asking her if it was okay to snap some photos, permission she happily granted. We thought she’d be on court longer; she finished up just as Vasek Pospisil (the purpose of the visit) came out for an interview, so there was no opportunity.
The surfaces makes sense; there’s an early-season Har-Tru circuit in Florida to start the year: a $25,000 event in Plantation, Fla. (where the Orange Bowl was played and the Saviano Academy is located) the week before the Australian Open. That’s followed by a similar tournament in Daytona Beach, then one in Sunrise, Fla. outside Fort Lauderdale. Then there’s a $100,000 event in Midland, Mich. indoors, the first week of February.
So there will be plenty of opportunities to play close to home – well, as much as Florida is home. She’ll still need some wild cards, though, unless she wants to do the qualifying.