On The Cusp: Rebecca Marino
Published November 23, 2010 12:00
VANCOUVER, Canada - In August she was No.179, playing the qualifying of the US Open. Little did anyone know Canada's Rebecca Marino was about to announce herself on one of tennis' biggest stages, go on a phenomenal win streak in the fall and come so close to breaking the Top 100 at year-end.
Marino was born in Toronto but moved to Vancouver at age 2, and started playing tennis at age 10. "I wasn't too much of a tennis fan growing up, but I did take a particular liking to Jennifer Capriati. I was young, and I think I just liked her name, but now I appreciate how fantastic a player she was. I started taking some lessons over in North Vancouver, at the Grant Connell Tennis Centre."
In 2009, Marino moved to Montréal to train at Canada's National Training Centre.
"It was good to centralize my training. There are good players there: Wozniak, Dubois, Tétreault... it's a very close-knit community," Marino, now 19, said. "Moving there was the best step I could take. It was hard to move so far at first, but I was originally going to go to college, so I was going to be on my own anyway. The girls there are so warm-hearted - typical Canadians! We do stuff off the court sometimes. My coach, Simon Larose, and my trainer are there too."
Unseeded in the US Open qualies, Marino made the main draw without losing a set, then edged Ksenia Pervak in the first round. Playing Venus Williams on Ashe Stadium in the second round she held her ground, her powerful serves and forehands helping push the first set to a tie-break, even taking her to a 3-1 lead. Williams would win, 76(3) 63, but Marino had certainly left her mark.
"I thought I had been playing well the rest of the year, but I didn't have many results to back it up. It was harder on clay and grass," Marino commented. "When I got back on hardcourts I was back in my comfort zone.
"In New York it all came together. Playing Venus was difficult though. I really couldn't look up at the Jumbotron; at one point I did look and I was terrified because I saw my face up there. I also remember the point in the tie-break when I was at the net and hit a short volley, and Venus almost killed me. It really showed her athletic ability - it was scary, in a good way!"
Right after the Open, Marino went back to Québec City - where she had played her only other previous WTA main draws before the Open - and made it to the quarterfinals. But it wasn't just any run to the quarters - she fired 10 aces in a shock upset over Marion Bartoli along the way, pulling off her first Top 20 win with a comprehensive 63 61 scoreline. "It was one of the best matches of my life," Marino said afterwards. "I want to be playing at this level, competing against - and winning - against these players. I have put a lot of work in and maybe this is a reward for that. I can't relax though - I want to go further."
Marino was just the second Canadian in the last 10 years to beat a Top 15 player, excluding retirements (Aleksandra Wozniak has done it four times). "Rebecca gave me absolutely no chance," Bartoli, No.14 at the time, said. "If she plays like that every day she can be Top 20, Top 10 even. I felt she could put the ball wherever she wanted to and I had no chance to win with her playing like that. She served so well; there was so much pressure for me to hold."
Marino then transitioned back to the ITF Circuit and won 18 matches in a row, capturing three titles before falling in the semifinals of a $50,000 tournament in her birthplace. She was No.101 on the November 8 year-end rankings.
"The hard work I've been doing this year helped me maintain a high level in the fall. Of course, by the end I was getting a bit tired. But I'm really happy how I was able to finish the year - hopefully that can translate into 2011."
Before the off-season training begins, however, Marino will spend some time at home in Vancouver. "Generally when I have down time I like to see friends and family, and do things people would normally think are really boring, like go downtown, go to Kits Beach, have a coffee... I just need time to recharge."
With some huge weapons in her arsenal, Marino can certainly be pegged as a future top player - but her goals, at least as of now, are more modest and qualitative. "Numerical goals are limiting because if you set them too high, it could be too much; if they're too low, you could attain them too easily. I just want to be happy and compete hard. The results will hopefully come.
"Everyone has different rates of progression. I'm going to be 20 soon, and the average age of a top player is in the mid-20s, and when you see players like Date-Krumm doing so well at age 40, it's inspiring. I'm not even 20 and there's someone who's 40 who could kick my butt. I could be playing 20 more years..."