Rising Stars Of 2014: Jana
Published April 17, 2014 12:14
It was one of the biggest upsets on the WTA in the last few years. On a cool night in Charleston, a No.78-ranked Jana Cepelova stunned Serena Williams, running down everything she could and even matching the World No.1's power at times - and in the end truly announcing herself to the tennis world.
The big win didn't really come out of nowhere. After a solid junior career Cepelova was progressing nicely in the seniors - a few WTA quarterfinals, winning rounds at the majors, and a few weeks earlier scoring her first Top 20 win over Sam Stosur. But the win over Williams was clearly a step up.
"It was really good experience for me, and it gives me a lot of confidence," Cepelova said. "I learned a lot from that match and since then I've been trying to keep playing like I did against Serena."
Not a bad strategy. And she made it all the way to the final of the Premier-level event with that strategy - but there was something else about her approach that surprised some during the week.
"I am here alone," Cepelova said. "The WTA physio is here and they help me if I need anything, and my family and my coach are supporting me from home, but nobody is here in Charleston with me."
The 20-year-old Slovak, who was eating room service for dinner, still felt that support from home.
"If I win I'm a little bit happy, but then I'm sad because I cannot talk with somebody," she said. "But I try to keep in touch with my family and friends from home, and my coach. I'm calling them.
"I feel their support."
Her conqueror in the final, Andrea Petkovic, was told about Cepelova's situation after their match.
"I was super impressed. I said it in my speech. I couldn't believe what was happening. The first three or four rounds I didn't even realize she was alone. I didn't realize she had no coach here, and then a day or two ago I realized she was totally by herself. I don't know how she did it. Sometimes it's not bad, but on such a high level, to be able to pull through such incredible matches is just very impressive.
"And the most impressive part about it was keeping the momentum after beating Serena, because most of the times, I know it, I've been in those situations, you have a letdown because so many people start messaging you and everybody is writing about it, everybody is in awe. And then keeping the momentum and playing that well and winning another three or four matches is absolutely amazing."
Cepelova, who rose from No.78 to No.51 after that run, was asked after the final about her goals.
"I would like to stay healthy, play my game and be happy with my game," she said. "I would like to be Top 50 - but it doesn't have to be tomorrow, I just want to stay healthy, because last year I had a problem with my back. Now I would like to be healthy, prepared and ready for every tournament."
Humble words from someone who just took down one of the greatest players who ever lived.