Vanda Vargova has just started her ITF career, but she is already making a name for herself at the H-E-B Women’s Pro Tennis Open. On Monday, she rallied against the top-seeded player in qualifying and staged another comeback on Tuesday – overcoming being down a set and 0-4 in the second set to earn her place in the main draw. She won both matches in a final-set tiebreak, which are played in qualifying instead of a third set.
“I said to myself ‘I’m not going to lose,’ ” said Vargova.
Vargova, of course, is unseeded herself. She’s 19, from Slovakia, a newly minted freshman at Baylor University. In Slovakia, Vargova was both the national doubles and singles champion under 14 and 16. During her junior career, she happened to beat 7 different top 50 ITA players.
The Slovakian’s first match against Katarina Kozarov stretched up to two and a half hours over on Court 5. It was a worth while watch even under the hot Texas sun. After Vargova pulled away with the second set win, it was all left to the tiebreaker.
It was an exhausting back and forth. The rallies stretched on until Vargova finally finished it off with a 10-7 triumph over Kozarov, the former ITF-ranked No. 7 player.
“I feel more confident,” Vargova said. “I started bad, but as I started to play better and better that confidence went up.”
The only thing keeping her out of the main draw was Herrero, and it wasn’t going to be easy, but neither was the first match. Herrero has just graduated from Baylor, finishing her NCAA career as an All American player. Her doubles team was ranked first by the ITF and reached the round of 16 at the NCAA doubles championship.
Herrero made quick work of Vargova in the first set, winning it 6-2. As the second set started, Herrero made massive gains against Vargova. It was 4-0. And then, something clicked for Vargova. The game began to turn, slowly, and then in a flash. All of the sudden, Vargova had tied it up 4-4.
The points became increasingly hypnotizing. Vargova’s purple skirt shuddered at every tennis ball she smashed back at Herrero. Her racket twirled every time it connected with the tennis ball, almost shaking it off. She was a wall. Her confidence seemed to rise as the match tilted ever more in her favor, not that it ever seemed to falter, but it was swelling as her second tiebreaker of the tournament edged closer.
By the time Vargova had taken the second set, the score was 6-4. It was settled by a grueling deuce, one fighting for a tiebreaker, the other attempting to finish the game before that could ever happen.
During the tiebreaker, both players inched toward two- or three-point leads before the other caught back up. Finally, Vargova settled it, 12-10.
She faces Ashley Lahey on Wednesday. The American was ranked No. 1 in ITF singles during the majority of her senior season. This could be Vargova’s toughest match yet.
“Tomorrow we go again,” said Vargova, proud of her recent performance, ready to take on whatever is to come.
By: Ignacio Perez