GSTAAD, Switzerland - For new mom Mandy Minella, the second phase of her career is all about one word: balance.
Ten months after giving birth, Luxembourg’s top player reached the first tour-level semifinal of her comeback with an emphatic 6-1, 6-2 victory over Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo on Friday at the Ladies' Championship Gstaad.
With three wins at the WTA International event so far, the 32-year-old is 32-11 this year since returning to tennis after welcoming daughter Emma Lina in October, including a 17-2 mark in her last five events with a pair of titles on the ITF Circuit.
“It feels great and I’m really, really happy,” Minella said after Friday's victory. “It’s strange because I’m so relaxed. I'm enjoying it, but I’m not overexcited. I’m having a great time and I’m so balanced right now.”
One of those recent losses came to Sorribes Tormo last week at a $100,000 ITF event in Contrexeville, France — where Minella qualified for the main draw but lost a marathon to the eventual runner-up in the first round, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3.
However, she flipped the script in 75 minutes in Switzerland, breaking the Spaniard's serve a staggering seven times for her first victory in three career meetings between the two.
“I lost to her in a very big fight [last week] — I think we played three hours,” Minella said of the Spaniard. “I knew she was a tough opponent, but I guess conditions here are a bit more in my favor. She had a lot of matches in the legs also, so I tried since the beginning to put in a lot of drop shots so she had to work harder.
"I had a very good tactical plan and execution, and I guess that’s what made me win today.”
She has not lost a set this week, which included a second round upset of No.2 seed and Nürnberger Versicherungscup champion, Sweden's Johanna Larsson.
The Luxembourger will next compete in her fifth career WTA semifinal against Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova, who ousted another mother competing in the singles draw — Russia’s Evgeniya Rodina — in Friday’s first quarterfinal.
Whatever the result of the encounter, Minella will soar in the WTA rankings on Monday: the former World No.66 currently sits at World No.226, but could shave nearly 100 places off her ranking should she go on to win her first WTA singles title.
Last season, Minella competed in her last tournament at Wimbledon before taking her maternity leave, and exactly a year on, the 32-year-old has attributed the early results of her comeback to her willingness to embrace her new normal: motherhood and all that comes with it.
“I think I’ve recovered mostly 100 percent [after giving birth]. The only thing which is a bit harder is the sleep. Physically, I feel really, really good and I think because I’m less stressed, more balanced and more calm, I recover better and I don’t need so much energy. That’s the key point."
With a laugh, she added: “Before, I thought that if I don’t have eight hours of sleep, I’m done - and I was! Actually, maybe sleep is overrated. Of course, if you don’t have enough sleep, it will catch up with you, but that balance is the most important thing.”
Minella has found that balance on and off the court this week in the Swiss Alps: with her daughter and her mother, Anna, also in tow, her second career trip to the WTA International event has been a family affair.
“I came here by car, and [Emma] is having such a good time. The hotel has a little room with tons of games, and she’s in there all the time. She loves it. It’s a very calm tournament, so she feels it," Minella said.
“I’ve been doing well on the clay. I’ve been doing good in the smaller events. I like the altitude. I'm used to playing here and other events in altitude, like Bogotá and Monterrey. That suits my game, so I chose to come here because of that, but also because I like Switzerland and I feel good here.”