This month, the WTA Editorial team is profiling a selection of up-and-coming names to look out for in 2023.
Sara Bejlek | Alexandra Eala | Alycia Parks | Linda Noskova | Eva Lys | Caty McNally
At the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in April, Eva Lys got a taste for the spotlight -- and it made her hungrier for more.
At that point, the 20-year-old Ukrainian-born German's rise was steady but not spectacular. Ranked No.342, she was coming off a loss in ITF qualifying the previous week. Lys had never beaten a Top 100 player, or contested a tour-level match -- but that changed quickly.
Taking advantage of her qualifying wild card to reach the main draw, she pulled off a first-round upset with a 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 win over Viktorija Golubic. Her reward? A date with World No.1 Iga Swiatek, then in the midst of a compiling a 37-match winning streak.
"It was crazy," Lys said via Zoom from her Hamburg base. "I'd never had a whole stadium of people cheering for me before. It was a bit euphoric playing in that arena. [Against Swiatek], I felt like someone just threw me in cold water.
"I was sweating even before I went on court. I had so much respect but it was such a great experience, just to see how a player who is winning every single match is playing. To know that I really had good rallies where I was the better player. I didn't win the match, but I definitely won some points. You gotta start somewhere! And that gave me enough motivation for the rest of the year."
Indeed it did. Lys finished 2022 at No.123, capping her year with a superb indoor swing in which she won 13 of her last 16 matches. Those included a second Top 50 win, this time in Billie Jean King Cup playoff action over Petra Martic -- though by now, Lys was less fazed.
"Funny story, I did not look at the rankings before I played Martic," Lys said. "I knew she was a very good player, but I didn't know her exact ranking."
Lys counts scoring the first point for Germany in that Billie Jean King Cup tie, with teammates including good friend Jule Niemeier cheering from the sidelines, as another career highlight -- and another dose of motivation to reach that level consistently in 2023.
Get to know more about what makes her tick here.
Lys not only met, but exceeded her goals for 2022
Ahead of 2022, Lys' primary goal wasn't to do with results -- it was simply to stay healthy.
"Last year, the focus [of my preseason] wasn't really on tennis," she said. "It was more on my body, because the last years I was always suffering from little injuries."
The work she did paid off. Lys' body held up throughout 2022, and she was able to tick off the two milestones she had in mind: to reach the Top 200 and play Grand Slam qualifying for the first time. Indeed, the latter came even sooner than she'd envisaged.
"I was aiming for the US Open, because it was the last one and I didn't think everything would happen so quick," she said. In the event, she debuted in Wimbledon qualifying and reached the final round of US Open qualifying.
Lys describes herself as a confidence player, and this was evident as she gathered even more steam toward the end of the year.
"For me, as soon as I'm confident in my game I'm playing a different level. It's the path to go on court and regardless of who's on the other side, to know, 'Hey, I can beat this player, I have this level.' I have a lot of respect for every player, but at the beginning of the year I was so honoured to share the court with great Top 100 players.
"I'm working with my sports psychologist a lot and one day I just tried to go on court, not see the opponent and just believe in myself. After winning the first and then second matches against Top 100 players, it gave me so much confidence in my game. I can share the court with those players and come out the winner.
"But there's a big difference between believing you should win and can win. 'Should' is a very strong word. You never go on court thinking that. For me, it doesn't work thinking that I have to win the match. I just know there is a big possibility I can."
Lys' older sister was also a pro player, and instrumental in her development
Tennis is something of a family business for Lys. Her father and coach, Vladimir, played Davis Cup for Ukraine. Her older sister, Lisa Matviyenko, competed on the ITF World Tennis Tour, peaking at No.420 in 2018. Their younger sister, 7-year-old Isabella, also plays, and sometimes accompanies Lys to tournaments.
Eva and Lisa's start in tennis was the result of a familiar immigrant story. Their mother Maria's Ukrainian law degree wasn't recognised in Germany when the family arrived in 2003, so she had to study for her qualifications all over again while learning a new language. Consequently, Vladimir -- who already had a job as a tennis coach -- was responsible for the school runs.
"In the second half of the day he was working, so he took us along and we basically grew up on court," Lys said. "Pretty soon, both of us realised that we do not suck at this sport."
Matviyenko ended her tennis career last year in order to focus on her own law studies, but Lys -- who travelled with her as she ground her way through ITF W15s in Antalya -- was learning from her at every stage.
"While she was playing, I was just observing. Looking at the good things on tour, learning about the mistakes you can do. She's literally one of the reasons I'm playing as good as I am now.
"Especially growing up, she had a lot of influence. She was actually the one who told me, 'Eva, you're going to lose every week. You have to learn how to lose, or else it's going to be pretty tough for you. It's more important to learn how to deal with your losses than to celebrate and be excited about your wins.' That really stuck with me."
Growing up, Lys' parents encouraged her to have an academic backup plan. That's no longer her focus, but inspiration from another family member is something she keeps in mind. Lys' uncle Ivan Berezenko is the head of a trauma clinic in Kyiv, and following the Russian invasion of Ukraine this year she posted on social media about her pride in his work.
"He's doing fine, I would say, physically," she said. "He's still working there and there's not that much happening now, thankfully. The whole situation got more quiet in that area. But it's a long time since I last saw him. It's funny, he was always offering for me to go into the hospital and he would show me around. I'm pretty sad I've never done it, but I definitely hope to see him soon again, and I will definitely take that opportunity.
"I was always very interested in medicine -- biology was one of my best subjects. And I've also met people on the athlete side who make me think I could do that and also stay in a sports direction. I have so many open doors -- but right now I'm focusing on the one door I'm going through."
Lys thrives on the social aspect of the tour
Glance at Lys' social media, and one thing sticks out: the sheer number of her colleagues supporting her and joking with her in the comments, from older compatriots like Andrea Petkovic to junior peers Clara Tauson and Robin Montgomery.
"I love to receive energy from people and I love to give energy back," Lys said.
"All those players, you're seeing them every week, you're growing up with them. Everyone's practising and working hard. There's definitely a big competition, that's very important, but off court we all have the same goals -- so why not try and help each other to make it a bit easier? I've found some very funny and great people on tour so I'm really enjoying my time."
Meanwhile, a strong network of non-tennis friends helps keep her grounded.
"I'll be having a mental crisis about why my forehand isn't finding the court. Then one of my friends, who's studying in Vienna, calls, and she's seen the cutest dog ever on the street. There are those little moments where you realise, hey, there's so much more happiness out there than in your one bad practise or tournament."
But the tiring nature of the pro tennis life means that Lys rarely goes crazy when she gets to hang out with them. She's just back from a holiday visiting friends in Spain, and the emphasis was firmly on chilling out.
"I was thinking we'd do so much stuff. But at the end of the day we were just cooking at home and watching movies, falling asleep on the couch."
Lys, whose speciality dish is truffle pasta, is accordingly looking forward to making her debut at one Hologic WTA Tour stop in particular next year.
"Rome, for the pasta! I'm so excited."