Slovakian 20-year old Zuzana Zlochova competed in four $10,000 tournaments on the ITF Pro Circuit during the month of August, all on her favoured Clay court playing surface and is our featured player for the month.
Zlochova, a self confessed fan of WTA star Kim Clijsters, enjoyed the best month of her professional career to date as she claimed two singles titles. Her other two tournaments saw her defeated on each occasion by the eventual champion.
Her opening tournament of the month took place in the northeastern Polish town of Ilawa. Zlochova, the No. 1 seed, barely broke sweat as she eased through the opening two rounds of the tournament where she finished as runner-up in 2009 in what was her career first singles final on the ITF Pro Circuit. In fact she only dropped two games in total as she saw off the challenges from Bianca Koch 60 40 RET and Yuliana Umanets 62 60 as she sent out a warning to all other competitors that she fully intended on taking the title this year. In her quarterfinal, she faced the No. 6 seeded Italian Giulia Gasparri whom she defeated in the 2009 semifinal 60 61. Another easy win seemed to be on the cards as Zlochova quickly took the first set 61 but her Italian opponent provided stiffer competition in the second set before going down 61 64. That second set was to set the tone for the remainder of the tournament for Zlochova. Next up was a semifinal against Polish opposition, the No. 3 seed Olga Brozda. A tiebreak was required to separate to two players in the opening set and it was Zlochova who just edged it 7-4. From here she pushed on to claim the victory by taking the second set 64 and move into the final for the second year running. In the final she was up against another Polish player, Katarzyna Kawa. As in the opening set of her semifinal match, Zlochova needed a tiebreak win to secure the set, this time though dropping only two points. The second set however saw her fifth seeded opponent level the match as she became the first player all week to take a set off the Slovakian. This proved to be only a minor set back as Zlochova roared onto victory in the deciding set, wrapping up a 76(2) 57 62 triumph for her second singles title of the year. In Ilawa, Zlochova also entered into the doubles event with partner Jana Jandova from the Czech Republic but their time in the event was short lived as they made a quarterfinal exit as the third seeds.
After leaving Poland, Zlochova headed to Romania for her next tournament where she was competing in the singles event only in the city of Onesti in Bacau County. Named as the No. 2 seed she defeated Romanian qualifier Claudia-Gianina Dumitrescu 63 62 in the opening round. A second round 62 60 victory followed before she bowed out of the tournament to sixth seeded Romanian Mihaela Buzarnescu, retiring from the contest having lost the first set 60. Buzarnescu would go on to reach the final and take the title.
Following the disappointment in Romania, the next port of call on the ITF Pro Circuit for her was the northern Croatian city of Cakovec, around 90km north of Zagreb the nation’s capital. For a moment it seemed that Zlochova, once again seeded No. 1, would be heading out of the tournament early as she found herself trailing to Serbian qualifier Ema Polic having lost the opening set 63. It didn’t take long however for Zlochova to square things up, dropping just the one game in the second set and then wrapping up the match 7-4 in a deciding set tiebreak. A straight sets win followed in the second round before she then found herself a set down for the second time in three matches as she went down 61 to seventh seeded Martina Caciotti from Italy. Again Zlochova staged a comeback dropping five games in the next two sets to reach the semifinal. It was here in the semifinal that her participation in the singles event came to an end with a 61 60 defeat at the hands of Slovenia’s Nastja Kolar, who would go on to claim the title. In the doubles event Zlochova partnered Croatia’s Indire Akiki but as second seeds they had to pull out of their semifinal match, against eventual champions Nastja Kolar & Polona Rebersak, due to an injury Akiki sustained in the singles event.
Finally, Zlochova brought the month to a close in Bosnia & Herzegovina in Doboj, one of the oldest cities in the country. At the event in this northern city she was seeded second. For the third tournament in succession she opened with a match against a qualifier and following a narrow 75 63 win she continued to progress through the draw with two more straight sets wins, dropping just two games in each of the four sets played including a quarterfinal win over the tournament’s fifth seed. Into the semifinal and a match with sixth seeded Patricia Chirea from Romania ended in a 64 61 victory for Zlochova as she ended the month as she started it, with a place in a final. The day prior to the singles final, Zlochova won the doubles title, as the fourth seed with Bosnian partner Jasmina Kajtazovic, who was to be her opponent in the upcoming singles final. Zlochova knew she had to beware in the final as her opponent and doubles partner Kajtazovic was in fine form having already defeated the No. 1 seed in her semifinal match. Predictably, the match between the two doubles partners was a tense and closely fought affair but there could be only one winner and with a 76(4) 75 triumph it was Zlochova who was celebrating as the umpire called out “game, set and match”.
Aside from the two singles titles and one doubles title won during the month, Zlochova also found she had climbed to a new career high singles ranking when the WTA released their August 30th rankings list. Zlochova’s successes in both singles finals reached this month also means she has now won the last four finals contested. Under the continued guidance of her coach of four years, Jozef Kraus, she will now be looking to take this form into the coming months and continue to climb the rankings ladder.