Young Czech tennis player with international background set for star status

07-06-2006

In the last few days the Czech tennis player Nicole Vaidisova has made a splash on the world stage for the first time. On Sunday the 17-year-old beat world number one Amelie Mauresmo at the French Open, in her first ever Grand Slam fourth round match. She has now reached the semi-finals after victory over Venus Williams on Tuesday. But what is her background? And what does the future hold for the latest Czech women's tennis sensation?

Nicole Vaidisova, photo: CTKNicole Vaidisova, photo: CTK In the last few days the Czech tennis player Nicole Vaidisova has made a splash on the world stage for the first time. On Sunday the 17-year-old beat world number one Amelie Mauresmo at the French Open, in her first ever Grand Slam fourth round match. Then on Tuesday her dream run continued with victory over Venus Williams in the quarter-finals. But with Williams taking the first set 7-6, it wasn't all plain sailing, as Nicole Vaidisova said after the match.

"I think the first set in general was not a great set, I served very badly. She took advantage of that and I fell asleep a little bit there and didn't use my chances in the tie-break, and it definitely wasn't a very good set. But luckily I stayed very calm, tried to be very positive and it worked out."

Standing between the Czech player and a career-first Grand Slam final is Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia. Their semi-final match takes place on Thursday.

Nicole Vaidisova, photo: CTKNicole Vaidisova, photo: CTK "I'm definitely excited. I played Svetlana once before, at Wimbledon. It was a tough match and I think I have a good chance. I've been playing very well lately, it's my first ever semi-final in a Grand Slam so I'm very excited."

Nicole Vaidisova looks like becoming the latest in a long line of Czech female tennis stars. But her background is different from most of her forebears. Vaidisova was born not in Czechoslovakia but in the German city of Nuremberg, six months before the Velvet Revolution.

Nicole Vaidisova, photo: CTKNicole Vaidisova, photo: CTK She comes from a tennis family; her uncle Daniel Vacek represented the Czech Republic while her step-father Ales Kodat is her coach.

She currently has homes in both Prague (she has exams at a business school in the city later this month) and Florida. It's no coincidence that she has a base in the Sunshine State: she attended Nick Bollettieri's famous academy there, and joins a long list of star graduates including Boris Becker, Andre Agassi and Maria Sharapova.

The comparisons with Sharapova don't end there. Vaidisova is also a tall blonde (181 cm) and was recently voted one of the top ten best looking women's players by the British tennis magazine Ace. She already has high profile endorsement deals (such as for Reebok, whose ads feature her photo and the slogan 'I am what I am').

Many are also predicting she will do great things on the court. The 17-year-old already has six WTA titles to her name and has a good chance of breaking into the world top ten in the not too distant future, if her current great form continues.

07-06-2006