Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Let the (American) Games Begin

The Pacific Life Open kicks off tomorrow in Indian Wells, California as the first major tournament in the U.S. this year. As Peter Bodo notes, while the men's field may be full (the top 33 will be there) the women are lacking on star power - really lacking.

I'm always searching around for those surprise stories within a newly-released draw. A lot of times it's an up-and-comer getting his or her first chance, or a local player getting their shot at greatness.

This time, however, it's a has-been trying to re-create the greatest she captured in the late '90s. Mirjana Lucic, now 25, was the teenager who had it all: she won her first-ever WTA singles tournament she entered Bol in 1997 in front of a home crowd. Then, in '98, she paired up with world #1 Martina Hingis to win her first-ever WTA doubles tournament at the '98 Aussie.

In 1999, Lucic made history by blazing past Monica Seles, Nathalie Tauziat and three others on her way to the semifinals at Wimbledon. Yet Lucic was just 6-12 that year outside of the All England Club and had a topsy-turvy career through 2002 before off-court issues sidelined her for the last three and a half years.

But now the 25-year-old Croatian is ready to make a bona-fide comeback. Attempting to put her past behind her, Lucic will open play against American Lindsey Nelson, a qualifier ranked #628 in the world as of last week. While I expect her comeback to be as bizarre and sporadic as her past, one can only hope that this time around will finally give Lucic the shot at greatness she is capable of.

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