Tennis: Wickmayer won't gamble when the chips are down

By Michael Brown

Yanina Wickmayer. Photo / Richard Robinson.
Yanina Wickmayer. Photo / Richard Robinson.

Superstition dictates Yanina Wickmayer won't touch the chips whenever she's asked to take part in the draw at the start of every tournament.

She did it a couple of times earlier in her career but twice drew the top seed. It's an approach that has served her well as she's climbed to become world No 23 (she peaked at No 12 in 2010) and she wouldn't have been disappointed to see herself drawn against world No 62 Magdalena Rybarikova from Slovakia in the first round of this week's ASB Classic.

She said it will be a "tricky" match, but Wickmayer avoided some of the bigger threats elsewhere in the field of 32 players and should progress to at least the quarter-finals where she is seeded to meet seventh seed Christina McHale of the US.

Wickmayer has done well in Auckland in the past, having won the tournament in 2010 and finishing runner-up in 2011, but her chips fell the wrong way in 2012 when she was a second-round casualty, beaten by Sara Errani who has since climbed to No 6 in the world on the back of her French Open final appearance.

Wickmayer's superstition about chips is just one quirk many tennis players own up to as they deal with life on the WTA Tour.

ASB Classic second seed and world No 18 Julia Goerges insists on the same hotel room each time she plays in Auckland and also endures questioning at customs as she tries to bring German laundry gel into the country to do her own washing.

"It brings me somehow the feeling of home," she said. "When I open my bag, I can smell home."

Both Wickmayer and Goerges are regulars at the ASB Classic but both will head into something of the unknown as they tackle the first tournament of a new season.

"It's always a bit bizarre in the beginning [of a new season]," said Wickmayer, who is the tournament's third seed. "We practice a lot, but still matches are different and it's a case of getting back into that rhythm. Some players find it the first day and others take a few more weeks. It's a new year and everyone is working hard and is ready. I hope I will find that confidence early in the season and get started."

Marina Erakovic has a great chance to do that after being drawn against a qualifier in the first round. The New Zealand No 1 was a semifinalist in 2008 but has been a first-round casualty for the past three years and wants to do well again at her home tournament.

If she can navigate her way past her first opponent, she's likely to face defending champion and world No 26 Zheng Jie in the second round.

This year's top seed and world No 4 Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland) will play Kristina Mladenovic from France and Goerges will also take on a qualifier.

Wickmayer believes she's the fittest she's ever been after a full off-season and is eager to see how that translates on the court. Even if it goes well, she's likely to let her emotions get the better of her at some point.

"I'm a girl with quite some energy, quite a temper," the Belgian said. "I will try to get the temper under control. I'm happy I have that. I prefer to have energy and be a positive girl rather than someone who is down and lazy.

"Everyone has their personality and it's nice to see on court when players show that. We are all different players and some are really calm and not really expressive and others are really expressive. I think that's nice to see."

So is witnessing a good draw.

Day 1 - Order of play

Center court start 10:00 am
Qualifying - G Arn (HUN) vs N Luangnam (THA)

Not Before 12:00 PM
[WC] E Bouchard (CAN) vs E Vesnina (RUS)
S Kuznetsova (RUS) vs K Bertens (NED)
M Rybarikova (SVK) vs [3] Y Wickmayer (BEL)

Not Before 7:00 PM
[4] J Zheng (CHN) vs J Hampton (USA)
P Hourigan (NZL) / C Williams (NZL) vs [2] M Erakovic (NZL) / H Watson (GBR)

Court 4 start 10:00 am
Qualifying - J Coin (FRA) vs S Dubois (CAN)
[7] C Mchale (USA) vs P Parmentier (FRA)
[WC] E Daniilidou (GRE) vs [WC] C Vandeweghe (USA)
J Larsson (SWE) vs M Doi (JPN)

Court 2 start 10:00 am
Qualifying - A Sevastova (LAT) vs L Kumkhum (THA)
Qualifying - G Min (USA) or J Craybas (USA) vs M Zanevska (UKR)
G Voskoboeva (KAZ) vs K Flipkens (BEL)
S Halep (ROU) vs A Rus (NED)

- APNZ

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