13 Jun 2017

Past Masters: Anna Blinkova

News Article

Photo: Susan MullaneLi Na (CHN) with Anna Blinkova (RUS)

It was clear at the time that winning the ITF Junior Masters had quite the impact on Anna Blinkova.

“This is the best day of my life so far,” pronounced the Russian after her moment of victory back in April 2016, her beaming smile widening further still when she was presented with the winner’s trophy by her heroine, two-time Grand Slam champion Li Na.

It was one of those pinch-yourself moments that would prove invaluable experience for the then-17-year-old, whose climb through the ranks of the professional game has garnered momentum ever since.

Now 18, the Moscow-native has gone on to win her first two Pro Circuit titles, made her Fed Cup by BNP Paribas debut for her country and both qualified – and won a match – at the 2017 Australian Open.

But having the chance to shine in Chengdu, when she defeated Great Britain’s Katie Swan in a tense three-set final, was a pivotal moment. Both the fierce competition and the winner’s prize of $15,000 in travel grants to assist her future development played their part in preparing Blinkova for everything the professional game would throw at her over the next 14 months.  

“It was a very good event for me,” Blinkova reflected in Paris a fortnight ago, where she fell in the final round of qualifying for Roland Garros. “It gave me confidence. It gave me experience. I learned many things [in Chengdu].

"Since I won this tournament I think I increased my tennis level. I learned many things about what I can do on the court and I think I am still using those things in my matches. But, of course, the transition [to the senior game] is very tough."

It wasn’t just the competition on court in Chengdu that proved a valuable learning curve for Blinkova, but the way the players were treated off it. The tournament provided a window into life as a professional player and the catalogue of responsibilities that are part and parcel of the job.

Be it red carpets, interviews, autograph sessions, official dinners and promotional activities - all of which were in abundance at the ITF Junior Masters - Blinkova tasted a life enjoyed by the top players week in, week out. She liked what she saw, and was more inspired than ever to earn a slice of it for herself.

“The tournament was very well organised,” Blinkova added. “Everything was perfect and on the highest level. I really loved this tournament.”