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Georgia Native Advances In Australian Open

January 17, 2006 12:36 PM

After a convincing 6-4, 6-1 first round victory over China’s Peng Shuai, Georgia native Ashley Harkleroad advances to face fourth-seeded Maria Sharapova of Russia. Harkleroad’s victory in this year’s Australian Open marked her first win in a Grand Slam event since the 2004 French Open.

Harkleroad and Sharapova have faced each other once in their respective careers. The result saw Sharapova come away with a first round 6-2, 6-1 win at Wimbledon in 2003. Since this meeting the two players have taken different courses.

When Harkleroad and Sharapova met at Wimbledon in 2003, their world rankings were 39 and 32 respectively. Both players were considered two young, up and coming stars. Since this match, Sharapova has stormed the women’s game to top five ranking while Harkleroad fell to a ranking of 107. Harkleroad contributes her decline to injuries and self pressure.

"I was so young and everything happened really fast," she said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself. I guess my highest ranking was 38 or 39. I never thought that was good enough. I was always, like, 'Terrible, you've got to do better.' When I dropped to 50, I was, like, 'What's going on?' When in reality, you're doing pretty good."

Harkleroad’s pressure saw her confidence and ranking go down. This pressure and an injury to her right elbow forced a nine-month break from competitive tennis.

Harkleroad committed herself to recovering from her injury and rejuvenating her passion to enjoy tennis. After her elbow status was elevated, she credited her husband, men’s player Alex Bogomolov Jr., in helping her return.

"My husband took some tournaments off and helped me out to try and get me back and enjoying it," said Harkleroad.

Now Harkleroad is back on the big stage of tennis hoping to notch what would be her biggest win of her career.




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