Bio – Personal
Birth date:October 20, 1989
Birth place:Lier, Belgium
Residence:3290 Deurne, Belgium
Yanina was born in Lier on Friday, October 20 in the year 1989. Those who think the name “Yanina Wickmayer” sounds a little exoctic are quite right. The choice made by daddy Marc Wickmayer and mummy Daniella Dannevoye for ‘Yanina’ as a given namen, was inspired by the legendary Argentine socker player Diego Maradona, who called his daughter Yanina. The surname Wickmayer isn’t exactly Belgian either, but traces back to Austria.
Yanina lost her mother to cancer, and is therefore easily compared to Justine Henin. She has a father who sees to her and travels with her – the band between father and daughter may be even stronger than the one between Kim and Leo “Lei” Clijsters. She got her initial tennis education in the United States, and her style of play, partially driven by her length (1m82) is agressive and fast. One can easily guess her service is her most powerful weapon. This American hardhitting profile also links her to Maria Sharapova. Yanina, however, doesn’t want to be a makeover of some other player. She doesn’t put her goals impossibly high, she wants to make her own choices, and give the best of herself as Yanina Wickmayer.
In her early childhood already, it became clear that Yanina was given an extraordinary talent. Her strive for perfectionism and her motivation were amazing.
Those who have seen Yanina run over a tennis court, are not likely to ever wonder if she did something else before that. It may therefore come as a surprise that Yanina did not hold a racket before being being nine years of age – a late calling, so to say. Her first sport intrest was lying somewhere different: she practiced the fighting sport TaekWonDo. This sport suited her personality very well – Taekwondo requires enormous discipline and self-confidence.
She gave up TaekWonDo after having participated at a tennis stage in tennis club ‘Zevenbergen’. We all know what came next.
Tennis as a source of distraction
Tennis started playing a more prominent role in Yanina’s life, after she lost her mother from cancer at nine years of age. In order to find some distraction in these hard times, she decided to spend a week in the United States with her father. At the tennis academy in Saddlebrook, Florida, the microbe called “tennis” gets a definite hold on her.
Martina Hingis as ‘the girl next door’
Yanina loving the tennis life dearly, father and daughter moved to Saddlebrook.
Yanina went to school there and could practice as much as she wanted. It is rather extraordinary to count Martina Hingis, Jelena Dokic and Jennifer Capriati among your neighbours. Yanina returned to Belgium twice a year to visit her grandparents, but also to play the more important junior tournaments. She got an offer to stay at the Bolletierri Academy, but didn’t want to put too strong bounds on herself at age ten.
After two years, Yanina gave up life in Florida. She returned to Belgium, where Ivo Van Aken (technical director of the Flemish (i.e. the northern part of Belgium) Tennis Association at the time) offered her a place in the junior division. Two years later, Yanina turned another page in the book of her life, and she went on with her own coach.
Yanina as a junior player
In 2003, Yanina first started playing at the ITF Junior’s Circuit. Her first glory came in doubles, with a title in Clermont-Ferrand, partnering countrywoman Tatiana Cutrona in August. In 2004, she won three doubles titles, in 2005 and 2006 one. In February 2006, she also lifted a singles trophy in Bolivia.
Her first (small) successes
Yanina first tried out playing on professional level in 2004. However, it wasn’t before 2006 that she really started her rise on the WTA rankings. In Edinburgh, she reached the finals as a qualifier, and followed that up by winning her first ITF Women’s Circuit title on home soil, in Koksijde. At the end of the year, she travelled to South America to grab some ranking points – she there accomplished her goal of finishing the year in the world’s top-500.
The way to being known
2007 started rather slowly. Yanina maded her first Fed Cup appearance, against Venus Williams. Also in Fed Cup, but in July against China, she took a huge step forward mentally by winning against Yan Zi. Yanina continued the good work and won a $25,000 tournament for the first time. In the end, she accomplished her goal of finishing around place 175 on the rankings by a succesfull Asian tournament series.
2008 became her breakthrough year. Early that year, she had noted down a couple of victories against well-known players (the Bondarenko sisters, Peng Shuai,…); and in june she played her first WTA Tour final in Birmingham.
After that, the sequence of matches started to weigh heavilty. Yanina’s experience in drawing up a well-equilibrated programme was limited. Therefore, she decided to hire the famous Dutch coach Glen Schaap in the fall of 2008. He did, however, not turn out to be the right man to steer Yanina, and in December she started working with Carlos Rodriguez, coach of Justine Henin. Also that co-operation didn’t last: Rodriguez didn’t want to travel with her and, more importantly, she didn’t like the changes that Rodriguez wanted to impose on her game (especially the service). In April 2009, Yanina decided to travel with her father again, and from time to time work with her former coach Ann Devries – who doesn’t try to turn her into a different player. Success immediately followed: Yanina won her first title at Estoril, reached the second round at Roland Garros, and the finals in Rosmalen. Launched into the world’s top-50, she continued to rise by reaching her first grand slam semifinal at the US Open, and winning her second career title in Linz. She ended the year as world number 16 – and the best Belgian player, before US Open champion Kim Clijsters.
The end of 2009 was overshadowed by a one-year ban due to whereabouts procedural issues. Yanina is trying to get her way by legal procedures, and will try to continue her rise on the tour in 2010.