April 14, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

Vid: Rebecca Marino has top 250 within reach

SHERBROOKE, Que. – When Rebecca Marino returned from a five-year retirement last February in the qualifying of an entry-level ITF event in Turkey, the former world No. 38 was starting from scratch.

As she looks to her quarter-final match against No. 1 seed Arina Rodionova Friday at the Granby Challenger, she has the top 250 within reach if she can win the title, in only her 10th tournament back.

It took a crazy number of matches at those low levels to even get a rankings number next to her name. Marino went 20-1 through four weeks in Antalya, Turkey and checked in at … No. 624.

After a break, she returned for a three tournaments at the $25,000 level in Japan – again, having to earn her way in through qualifying. And at end of that swing, she was on the books at … No. 436.

A planned swing through the Har-Tru circuit in the southern U.S. was cut short by a shoulder issue. But now, with opportunities in her home country to get into the bigger events, she can really make a move.

After six weeks off, Marino returned at the $25,000 Winnipeg Challenger, and won it. It was the first time she had played in Canada since 2012, the fourth tournament title of her comeback – and the biggest.

https://twitter.com/beccamarino90/status/1018594084175433728

Biggest challenge yet in Granby

This week in Granby, it’s a $60,000 tournament, with proportionately more ranking points at stake. And Marino has done well through two rounds to get to the quarterfinals. She posted a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over Maria Sanchez of the U.S. in the second round, and now takes on No. 1 seed Arina Rodionova. 

At 28, Rodionova has been around longer than Marino, without the long break. Still, the two never met during Part I of Marino’s tennis career. They faced off for the first time last week in Gatineau, where the Canadian went after winning in Winnipeg and may not have been in full nick.

Rodionova won that one, 6-2, 6-4.

Here’s how the rankings picture looks for the 27-year-old. 

Marino entered the Granby tournament ranked No. 329. Already, with her effort in Granby, she’s at about No. 310.

If she can beat Rodionova and reach the semifinals, she would break into the top 300 at about No. 292. If she can reach the final, she’d be at about No. 273. And if she can win the event, she likely would break into the top 250, or close.

With the Rogers Cup qualifying coming up in just over a week, and then her hometown Challenger in Vancouver (a big one, with $100,000 in prize money and the corresponding attractive bounty of ranking points), the time is now.

Doubles a mutual admiration society

Marino

On Thursday, Marino teamed up with fellow Canadian Leylah-Annie Fernandez, a 15-year-old who reached the semifinals of the junior French Open in her first appearance at the Grand Slam level last month.

Fernandez is playing just her fifth pro event of the season.

With the 12-year age difference, these two are quite the May-December pairing and Marino very much the big sister figure. And with Marino training regularly in Montreal with the Tennis Canada staff alongside Fernandez and her coach Francisco Sanchez, they’ve struck up a bit of a mutual admiration society.

https://twitter.com/beccamarino90/status/1004852308168134661

So it was a natural to team up. And they pulled off a comeback win in their first round, 4-6, 6-3, [12-10] against Hsu and Zacarias. 

Struggles against the No. 1 seeds

The No. 1 seeds, Rodionova and Ellen Perez (both of Australia) were significantly trickier on Thursday, although they had their chances to pull even in the second set after quickly going down 1-4.

The Aussie pair seemed to see Marino’s big serve really well, even if you’d expect it would be even more effective as the match was pushed indoors by the weather.

So wasn’t to be. And Marino might be kicking herself a bit for not having a great day at the office; lots of mishits and unforced errors on the groundstrokes.

But a lot of smiles, too. Here’s what it looked like.

It’ll be interesting to look back in three or four years, and see where both these players are.

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