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A Martina in the making ?

After the legendary Martina Navratilova, another player from Eastern Europe -- also her namesake - who's in the fray at the ongoing WTA tour is Martina Sucha and she's a player to watch out for, says ABHIJIT SEN GUPTA.

POISED FOR GREATNESS: Martina Sucha is raring to go. — Photo: K. Ramesh Babu

THE EASTERN European region has thrown up several talented women tennis players among whom the best known is probably Martina Navratilova, the ageless wonder who in her late Forties bagged the mixed doubles title at the Australian Open with Leander Paes as her partner.

Navratilova, who was born in Prague in 1956 took up US citizenship in 1981 and had a long lasting career which saw her win 18 singles, 31 doubles and eight mixed doubles Grand Slam titles and 167 singles and 166 doubles titles in the WTA tours earning a total prize money of more than $ 20 million. In fact her career could be the envy of the best women players in the history of the sport.

At the WTA Indian Open in Hyderabad, another player from the same region namely Martina Sucha (pronounced Sooha) of Slovakia is in the fray. She admits that Navratilova's feats on the courts were a source of inspiration for many youngsters even now and the grand lady of tennis continues to be considered a role model for the present generation of players.

Martina Sucha was born on Novemeber 20, 1980 in Nove Zamky, in Slovakia, and took up playing at the age of eight. She received full support of her family members and her father Heinrich Suchy, a doctor, often takes a break from his work to accompany her to tournaments all over the world. But he has not come to Hyderabad because as Martina revealed with a smile, "I like to travel alone sometimes.''

Martina who is five feet seven inches tall and plays right handed, has won one WTA tour singles title and three ITF singles titles and has so far made $ 3,51,476 in prize money.

She has the advantage of having a mother who is a sports doctor. Margita Sucha often helps her daughter with helpful advice on how to stay fit and avoid injury. But such is the demanding nature of the sport that Martina did undergo a serious shoulder injury last year, which kept her out of action for a long period.

Martina says that the level of the sport in Slovakia is on the rise. "We have seven to eight women in the top 100 world rankings including Daniella Hantuchova who is one of the most promising stars on the international women's circuit,'' says Martina. The 19-year-old, 5 ft, 11 inches tall Hantuchova has won two mixed doubles Grand Slam titles and in the eyes of experts has a bright future ahead of her. Martina Sucha also speaks highly of her compatriot Janette Husarova who has picked up 15 WTA doubles titles and four ITF singles titles.

``We have a very good system in Bratislava,'' says Martina . `The curcuit is a good one with the standard of competition being quite high. So we don't often have to go out of the country in order to play against top class opposition. We can have good competition right at home,'' she says.

About her own career Martina feels that she has to play in as many tournaments as possible in order to gain experience and confidence in playing against higher ranked opponents. Her favourite is Steffi Graf. When asked to comment upon the dominance of the Williams sisters in the world tennis at present, Martina stated that both Venus and Serena are very good players and are right now at their peak but added at the same time that no player is unbeatable.

"On my way here my baggage got misplaced in Vienna. All I had with me when I landed in Hyderabad were my rackets and shoes. So I had to go out and buy some playing clothes,'' she said with a smile.

But the experience probably also had a good side to it since she enjoys shopping. Her other interests include listening to music, reading (favourite authors are M.E. Remarque and W. Saroyan), watching movies and television shows. Her main objective this year is to win a WTA title and go on to greater feats from there.

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