|Kirsten Flipkens Recovers From Illness To Be Better Than Ever|
Kirsten has had her own breakthrough in recent months after her best ever Slam performance in Australia, reaching the fourth round. She's now overtaken Yanina by reaching 28 in the WTA rankings to Yanina's 30 and is set to rise higher next week after her quarter final appearance in Miami, her best performance to date.
It's really difficult to predict who's tennis game is going to improve in leaps and bounds in any year and few at the start of 2013 would have thought that Kirsten would do so well, given the fact she's now 27, an age when most tennis players have already peaked. I doubt many would have predicted the extraordinary rise of Sara Errani or Angelique Kerber either in the last year, but at some point, something mentally or physically just 'clicks' for these players.
In Sara's case, it was the significant extra effort she put into training in the off season at the end of 2011. She improved her fitness to the point that it gave her confidence a boost, knowing that no opponent would be able to out run her in the course of a match. At this point, all she needed to work on was the technical aspect of her tennis game.
Kirsten seems to have fallen into another category, where circumstances conspire to allow a player to focus on exactly what is required to make big improvements in their game. This can sometimes be as a result of an injury or illness that gives them time to reflect on what they've already got and what they still need to do. A career threatening illness or injury in particular can really help this introspection, such that a complete recovery will often motivate a player to elevate their tennis to make the most of this 'borrowed' post layoff time.
One obvious example of this is Samantha Stosur's career. She was a very good doubles player and a good singles one before she contracted Lyme disease, but she never looked likely to be a Slam winner. Her illness took her to the point where even walking was difficult, so the elation of a complete recovery transported her tennis game to new heights, as she trained harder and focused more to make the most of her 'bonus' years in the game. The US Open title surely makes up for the year of misery she had in her early twenties.
In a slightly different way, Serena Williams is another example. Though she already had many Slam titles to her name, it seemed a couple of years ago that her focus had gone and she'd rather be promoting her new clothing range, Aneres. Her foot injury, followed closely by a life threatening blood clot on the lungs, forced her to reassess her priorities toward the tail end of her tennis career. She's now back to number one and looks determined to add to her already legendary achievements before she puts her feet up.
Kirsten's tennis changing moment happened last year when she experienced excruciating pain in her leg following an exhausting tennis match. She eventually found out that she had four blood clots in her calf, caused by a genetic weakness. She was due to fly soon after her match, a flight that could easily have killed her if the clots had not been discovered and treated. She now needs to take blood thinners before any flight.
|Kirsten In adidas With Oakley Sunglasses|
She's now got a new coach and is still helped by her old friend and rival, Kim Clijsters - definitely a blessing to have in your corner. Kirsten doesn't have a powerful stature, so her tennis game relies on variety and unpredictability like Martina Hingis. It's all heading in the right direction at the moment, such that she might yet be able to call herself a world top twenty player.
Unfortunately in the quarter finals in Miami, Kirsten found world number 4, Agnieszka Radwanska just a little to wily but she did manage to take a set off her. It'll be interesting to see in the next few months if Kirsten can keep building on her current momentum, fueled by her new inner peace and resilience.
If you watched the match with Agnieszka, you'll have noticed Kirsten in the colors of the spring season, yellow and white. In Kirsten's case, adidas Adizero women's tennis apparel. She used to wear Nike, but adidas were first to recognize the dramatic improvement Kirsten has made recently. Adizero is one of the favorites of the WTA professionals and is worn by Ana Ivanovic, Angelique Kerber, Sorana Cirstea and fast rising teenagers, Kristina Mladenovic and Garbine Muguruza.