June 24, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

ROLAND GARROS – A tennis lifetime ago, Rebecca Marino made the third round at Roland Garros.

It was in her “first career”, before a nearly five-year break and a successful return to play.

So if she – like most North Americans – is quick to proclaim that clay isn’t her favorite surface, her big-striking game can be very effective on it.

So it wasn’t a total shock, despite having opted for some ITF tournaments in Japan on hard court this spring, in lieu of clay-court prep, that she didn’t have too much trouble getting past her first round in this year’s Roland Garros qualifying.

Marino defeated Argentine lefty Martina Capurro Taborda 6-3, 7-6 (4) on Tuesday to advance to the second round.

Here’s what it looked like:

It got a little dicey towards the end, when Marino seemed to have it well in hand.

“Yeah, “I think she was trying to change up her ball a little bit. She started hitting a lot higher and a little more difficult and pushing me back,” Marino said “But got back to it in the tiebreaker. I was trying to tell myself to be aggressive, and that’s what worked.”

Capurro Taborda, at No. 162, is ranked two spots ahead of Marino at the moment and isn’t too far from her career high of No. 149, reached in January.

Marino, of course, has been in the top 40. And while a knee injury hampered her 2023 season to a great extent, she’s back and healthy and looking to make a dent in that number.

Capurro Taborda was game, but outgunned in a first-round qualifying match against Marino.

Finding the right balance

Part of that is finding a good balance. And after being in Europe for the entire clay and grass season last year, she went in a different direction.

“I know where my strengths lie. I prefer hard court, and I saw there were tournaments in Japan where I played well historically. So I just thought I would do that because I think for the last couple of years, I tried to come early and do some clay events, and it just stretches really long because being from Vancouver, I can’t really go back in between. So I stay over the whole time until the end of grass. That’s minimum two months. So I try to pace myself. So that’s why I follow that schedule and it seemed logical to me,” Marino said.

The other issue is her current ranking. It’s a bit of a purgatory – probably out of the qualifying for the two WTA 1000 clay events in May. And even the smaller tournaments have pretty tough cutoffs.

“I’m trying to be intelligent with scheduling and planning. And it’s a long year as well, as I’ve learned. I’m trying to do more little blocks and have some training blocks in between where I can go home and keep that balance, mentally and physically be fresh in the year,” she said. “So I think it’s paying off pretty well. You have to go where your ranking lets you get into as well. But everyone’s in the same position.”

Arguably the best volley of her life. Unfortunately, Marino won the battle but lost the (point) war. That time.

Next up: Ciric Bagaric

Next up on Wednesday for Marino is Lucija Ciric Bagaric of Croatia, a 20-year-old ranked a career-best No. 185 who is at 25-5 on the season so far – almost all of it on clay.

She won three $25,000 ITFs in a row back in February and March, in Tunisia and Cyprus. But this is her first career attempt at qualifying for a major.

She defeated the veteran Arina Rodionova 6-4, 6-3 in the first round.

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