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Mona Barthel: Lofty Ambitions

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Originally published on: 19/07/12 00:00

The daughter of a former European junior shot-put champion, Mona Barthel could be forgiven for dwelling on what the future might hold but, unlike some, she’s never really been the type to sit around wondering.

At the age of three, her first sporting urge wasn’t to lob a heavy metal ball across the garden like dad, Wolfgang, now a doctor, but to follow the lead of her older sister Sunna and pick up a tennis racket. Though Sunna was forced to give up the game early on in her professional career because of a shoulder injury, Mona set her sights on the top and never looked back. Less than three years ago she was still at school, but now in the midst of a very promising first full season on the WTA circuit that has seen her leap into the top 40, the 22-year-old German is not at all surprised by her rapid progression.

“I think it’s just a normal process,” she told tennishead. “School was always my first priority and I just played a couple of tournaments during vacation. I finished in August 2009, played more tournaments and got my ranking up to around 500. Unfortunately, in 2010 I got a little ill for six months and I didn’t feel very well, but I think I was always improving.”

Barthel laid the foundations for her break onto the WTA circuit last year, winning ITF titles in Great Britain, France and Italy around maiden Grand Slam match wins at Roland Garros and the US Open. She also won six matches on the trot to come through qualifying and reach her first WTA semi-final in Copenhagen, but it is this year that Barthel has truly made her mark.

In January, she won eight matches in a row – clobbering four top 40-ranked players in the process – en route to winning her first WTA title in Hobart, and promptly headed off to the Australian Open, reached the third round, and picked up a cheque for $57,711 for her troubles. Quarter-finals in Paris, Copenhagen and Stuttgart have all followed this year – impressive accomplishments for a player who doesn’t even travel with a coach.

“I travel with my Mum instead,” says the right-hander. “Right now it’s working really well. I am looking for a coach but I am not in a hurry to get one. I’ll carry on looking around and maybe I will find someone who can help me improve my game.”

Already mentally strong, a big-server and quick-footed in spite of her rangy frame, Barthel is fast becoming another great asset for German tennis, which celebrated having four players in the top 20 for the first time in 24 years this February. “Right now we are really good and all of us are so young,” notes Barthel. “I don’t really know why! We all did our own thing and everything is working out really well.”

Barthel joins compatriots Angelique Kerber, Sabine Lisicki and Julia Goerges in the singles draw for the Olympics at Wimbledon, hoping to improve on her three-set first round loss to Vera Zvonareva on her last visit to the All England Club.

'Lofty Ambitions' featured in the July 2012 issue of tennishead magazine. Why not subscribe here.

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