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Getting To Know... Ashley Harkleroad

She's an all-American girl with giant-killing instincts.

Published May 07, 2003 12:00

Getting To Know... Ashley Harkleroad
Ashley Harkleroad
CHARLESTON, SC, USA - Undoubtedly the story of the past week on the WTA Tour was the stellar performance of 17-year-old American Ashley Harkleroad.
Accepting a wildcard into The Family Circle Cup in Charleston, Harkleroad stormed through the first three rounds, dropping no more than two games per set in beating Top 20 players Elena Bovina, Meghann Shaughnessy and Daniela Hantuchova for her first Top 10 win.

Her fellow semifinalists were Serena Williams, Justine Henin-Hardenne and Lindsay Davenport - not bad for a player who'd never surpassed the second round of a WTA Tour event in seven previous attempts.

There's been a lot written about you in the past couple of years about how much you can achieve on the WTA Tour. Has that been difficult to deal with?
AH: It hasn't been easy. There have been a lot of expectations and I didn't know how to deal with it at first. Growing up has made it easier - the more I grow up the more I have learnt to play tennis for myself and not to get so caught up in other things.

After this great week in Charleston, has that taken the pressure off you at all?
AH: I didn't feel the pressure before this week, so this hasn't really changed how I feel about myself, although of course it gives me confidence. All the people around me - my coach, my family and friends - are really good at trying to keep playing tennis enjoyable for me and that takes the pressure away a lot.

What was it like to play against - and beat - one of the greatest athletes of all time, Martina Navratilova (Harkleroad partnered Mashona Washington to beat Navratilova and Alicia Molik en route to the doubles semifinals)?
AH: It was amazing. I grew up watching her and I never would have ever believed I would get the opportunity to be on the same court as her, let alone to beat her! Also, it was an incredible match. The whole experience was fun and exciting.

At this early stage in your professional career, has playing on the Tour been any more or less difficult than what you expected?
AH: The more experience I get the more of a rhythm I get and that makes the whole Tour a bit easier of a place to deal with. Everybody out there is good and you know that. You know that anybody can beat anybody on a given day and that's how you have to play.

What's your favorite album or song at the moment?
AH: I really like Christina Aguilera's (new single) "Fighter". It's great at getting me ready for my matches at the moment. Otherwise I like a really wide range of music, from Eminem to the Dixie Chicks.

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