Germany’s Anna-Lena Groenefeld, ranked as high as 14 in singles and 7 in doubles a little over two years ago, is the player we are featuring for this month. 23-year old Anna-Lena, who has represented her nation in both Fed Cup and Hopman Cup during her career, competed in three tournaments on the ITF Women’s Circuit during the month.
Set on the Drevnice River, Zlin in the Czech Republic played host to a $75,000 ITF Women’s Circuit tournament for the first time and this was where Anna-Lena played the first of her three tournaments. Anna-Lena, who was a wildcard entrant into the singles main draw, was made to work hard in the opening set of her first round match against Tereza Hladikova, eventually winning on a tie break 8-6. It got easier for Anna-Lena in the next set as she completed a 76(6) 61 victory. The 7th seed, Nika Ozegovic, was Anna-Lena’s next opponent and in winning in straight sets 61 62, Anna-Lena to set up a quarterfinal with Renata Voracova, the 2nd seed. Anna-Lena dropped the first set 75 and an even closer second set went to a tiebreak, which, fortunately for Anna-Lena, finished 7-3 in her favour. After two closely fought sets the deciding third set was more one sided with Anna-Lena securing a semi final spot with a 57 76(3) 61 win. Progress through to the final, Anna-Lena’s first at any level since February 2006, was made with the loss of just one game as unseeded Zuzana Ondraskova was despatched 61 60. In the final, 6th seeded Jelena Kostanic Tosic from Croatia, provided the opposition. This encounter was the fifth meeting between the two players during their career and the first since Jelena’s straight sets first round defeat of Anna-Lena in Zagreb during May 2008. With Anna-Lena leading Jelena 3:1 in head-to-head meetings, the two players split the first two sets of the final and with both players just one set away from claiming the title, ending a baron run of two years for Anna-Lena and seven years for Jelena without a singles title, a tense final set was anticipated by all. In the deciding set it was Anna-Lena who appeared to want it more as she stepped up a gear to take the set 61 to record a 63 46 61 victory and with it the title. For Jelena, the wait continues.
Anna-Lena next took part in a $10,000 ITF Women’s Circuit tournament held in Alkmaar, Netherlands. For this tournament, Anna-Lena was named the number 3 seed. Players who came through the qualifying event provided the opposition for Anna-Lena in the first two rounds with Anna-Lena defeating both in straight sets. 7th seed, Lesya Tsurenko from Ukraine, was next to face Anna-Lena. Still full of confidence from her title winning performance in Zlin, Anna-Lena recorded a 63 63 victory to reach a second successive semi final. Russia’s Anastasia Poltoratskaya, seeded 2, stood between Anna-Lena and another final appearance. In keeping with her matches in each of the previous rounds, Anna-Lena once again won in straight sets, this time 63 64. Playing in her third career singles final in her home nation, Marlot Meddens, who was unseeded, was powerless to prevent Anna-Lena claiming a second title this month as Anna-Lena romped to a 61 61 victory.
The final tournament of the month for Anna-Lena saw her compete in both the singles and doubles events at a $25,000 ITF Women’s Circuit tournament held in Perigueux, France. In singles, Anna-Lena was seeded 5th. Going for a third straight singles title, Anna-Lena took on qualifier, Gracia Radovanovic in the opening round. The first set went to Anna-Lena 61 but the second set was to prove increasingly difficult and needed to be settled by a tiebreak, won 7-4 by Anna-Lena. Next followed two more straight set victories, both against Argentinean opposition. Iveta Gerlova was then defeated in the semi final 63 62. After two years without making a singles final, Anna-Lena was now into a third successive singles final in three weeks!
Florence Haring from France now had the task of preventing Anna-Lena claiming her third straight singles title and in doing so, winning her first. The opening set of the final was won 63 by Anna-Lena and Florence was unable to force the match into a deciding set as Anna-Lena went on to win the second set by the same score line. With Anna-Lena taking the title, it left Florence still without a title, having now finished runner-up in all five singles and four doubles finals that she has appeared in. In the doubles, Anna-Lena teamed up with Ipek Senoglu from Turkey. This was the second time they had teamed up. Their previous partnership together, back in Istanbul in May 2007, saw them defeated in the opening round. This time however, as 2nd seeds, they reached and won the final, 63 64.
A remarkable month then for Anna-Lena who with no appearances since February 2006 in a singles final, managed to reach three consecutive finals in the space of three weeks, winning the title on each occasion. The doubles title won in Perigueux, France was her first since January 2007. During the month, Anna-Lena won a total of thirty sets and lost just two. This included a run of winning twenty-one consecutive sets. At the time of writing, Anna-Lena is ranked at 252 in the WTA Rankings list and although she has some way to go before breaking back into the world top 15, if she can maintain this excellent form, she will soon start climbing the rankings ladder.