Slovakia's Anna Karolina Schmiedlova is like that teacher's pet who finishes a three hour exam in 30 minutes, leaves an apple on the teacher's desk as she departs the classroom and always gets a straight A. On Monday when she clocked in at a career-high No.46 in the WTA Rankings, the 20-year-old had already reached her pre-designated goal for the season ? and it's only April.
Schmiedlova's success has come so fast that the Slovakian herself was a little stumped when asked by a reporter to talk about her goals for the rest of 2015. "I wanted to be Top 50," Schmiedlova said after claiming her maiden title at the Katowice Open with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Italy's Camila Giorgi in the final. "I'm going to be Top 50 after this tournament. Right now I have to think about something new, set some new goals for the season."
The question may have stumped Schmiedlova, but facing Giorgi's aggressive hardcourt game on a fast surface in a high-stakes final did not. Blessed with a dynamic backhand and excellent feel and precision from the back court, Schmiedlova likes to massage the ball from corner to corner, but the rock-n-roll of style of Giorgi forced her to make adjustments.
"Normally I don't like to play against such aggressive players," she said. "I don't like it that much because sometimes I cannot play as aggressive as them and I am always on defense and it's tough for me. But today it was okay and I played really well. It was probably one of the best matches I've played."
Schmiedlova, a former junior girls' runner-up at the French Open, has played quite a few good matches in 2015. While pundits have been keeping close tabs on the likes of hard-hitting Madison Keys, Karolina Pliskova and Garbiñe Muguruza, the fleet-footed stylist has quietly started her surge up the rankings. Her game may not cause jaws to drop like her bigger, harder-hitting contemporaries, but her results are most certainly turning a few heads. Schmiedlova is one of only nine WTA players to have played in multiple finals this season, and she's proven to be one of the best returners in women's tennis in the season's first three-plus months. She's second to only Sara Errani in return games won this season, winning a whopping 50.1% of return games.
Even better for the Bratislava, Slovakia resident is the fact that she will spend the next two months playing on her favorite surface ? red clay.
Last year Schmiedlova made some noise at the French Open when she upset Venus Williams en route to a career-best third round appearance. "I think she's very good already, and she's going to be even better as she continues to play," said an impressed Williams at the time. "I see wonderful things for her."
Less than a year later, those wonderful things are already starting to happen for Schmiedlova.
Shining Bright: Madison Keys is the highest-ranked WTA player that has yet to turn 21, and the bomb-serving American took her ranking up another notch with a run to the final of the Family Circle Cup last weekend in Charleston. Keys was dominant all week, dropping only 14 games and saving every break point she faced on her way to the final.
She couldn't get past a determined Angelique Kerber in a tight, three set final, but Keys' performance served to remind us that this young American is still very much a player on the rise.
Keys' fantastic performance was rewarded this week with a career-high ranking of No.17, and a jump from 11th to 6th in the Road To Singapore standings.