INDIAN WELLS, CA, USA - The tennis world caught a few glimpses of Mallory Burdette during the 2012 season, pushing Marion Bartoli to a very tight first set in Stanford, reaching the third round of the US Open, nearly beating an in-form Kirsten Flipkens in Linz - and now, after some struggles with a wrist injury, the 22-year-old American is gathering some steam again at the BNP Paribas Open.
The qualifying at Indian Wells was stacked and Burdette's section was no exception - she would face Slovakian teenager Jana Cepelova and Hungarian veteran Melinda Czink, both of whom were coming off quarterfinals at Florianopolis. But she beat them both, and in straight sets too, first a 63 63 win over Cepelova and then a 62 61 win over Czink, breaking one of the best servers out there six times.
Already, the result wasn't too bad for a player who just underwent surgery a few months ago.
"I had a minor wrist surgery at the end of last year," Burdette said. "I couldn't play at 100% in January and wasn't ready to go for the Australian Open, so I just had to take it easy and go home and train. But I think it has helped me - I've been working really, really hard since then, and I'm really excited to get back out there and play all of these tournaments. Come February I was really ready to go.
"I'm super motivated right now and really excited to be in the main draw in Indian Wells."
The momentum carried into her first round match as she beat veteran countrywoman Jill Craybas in just 59 minutes, 62 61. Two things stood out: first, the fact she broke serve a whopping six times again, including Craybas' last five service games; second, she converted all six of her break points.
"I felt much better on my returns today," Burdette said. "I didn't know the stat about break points, but now that I think back I remember making quite a few more returns today than I had in the past two matches. That's great, and it's definitely something I was working towards in the qualifying.
"Overall, today's match was awesome. I felt good going out there on the court because I had already played two matches there in the qualifying, and in that stadium once, so I think it was a good thing I had those matches under my belt. There weren't a lot of nerves out there. I knew what to expect.
"And I'm happy how aggressively I played."
During her run to the third round of the US Open last year, Burdette - a star college player - was often asked about her career plans. The American's vision on that is quite a bit clearer now.
"I'm full on for tennis," she said. "I turned pro after the US Open last year, so I am completely committed to tennis right now. I'll definitely go back and finish my degree sometime, but at least in the next couple of years, or we'll see how many years maybe, my total focus will be on tennis."
And how does she feel about the picturesque Indian Wells venue? "Indian Wells has been great so far," she commented. "All the way from the transportation to the facilities it's just a very well run event. It's great to be here. And the crowds are great too - I had a decent sized crowd in my qualifying matches, which is something I'm definitely not used to. And also, you can't beat the weather!"
Next up for Burdette in the second round will be the No.23 seed, three-time WTA champion and two-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist Tamira Paszek. "I haven't played her before but obviously I know who she is," Burdette said. "I haven't put a whole lot of thought into the next match yet, but I know she's a great player. She's had fantastic results over the last 12 months and I look forward to the challenge.
"This is what you work so hard for every day, to win a couple matches and run into some top players."