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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Wickmayer advances to semifinals


NEW YORK - The 9-year-old girl put labels on the furniture she planned to take to America.

Yanina Wickmayer's mother had died of cancer a week earlier, and she decided - all on her own - that she needed a fresh start: leave her native Belgium to attend a Florida tennis academy. She did research on the Internet and informed her father they were moving.

No matter that she had only recently begun playing the sport, or that neither of them spoke English.

Marc Wickmayer said yes.

A decade later, he came to America to watch his daughter reach her first Grand Slam semifinal. Yanina Wickmayer beat Kateryna Bondarenko 7-5, 6-4 at the U.S. Open on Wednesday.

"This is a great moment," Marc Wickmayer said. "But every moment with Yanina is a great moment."

Ranked 50th, Wickmayer had never made it past the second round at a Grand Slam tournament. The 19-year-old player joins fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters in the semis and is guaranteed to face another teen - No. 9 seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark.

Marc Wickmayer, who owned a pool construction company in Belgium, closed the business and didn't work while they lived in Tampa. Relatives helped provide financial support as Yanina honed her skills at Saddlebrook tennis academy. He had worked long days when his wife was sick, but she told him before she died that he needed to devote his time to his daughter after she was gone.

"He just gave everything up for me," Yanina said. "He just left. He listened to a girl that was 9 years old and left his life, left his dreams. I'm always going to respect him for that."

After two and a half years, they were ready to return to Belgium.

"We were living our lives and being happy to live," she said, "and being happy to see the next day arrive."

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On this day in Flushing Meadows, Wickmayer rallied to win the last five games of the second set and close out the 52nd-ranked Ukrainian. That fighting spirit was forged through tragedy - and the way she and her father endured.

"I know what life is, and maybe I'm older in my head than some people think," she said. "Sometimes it's not easy for me, because sometimes I wish I could be a girl from 19 and just enjoy, you know. But I guess that's life."

On the men's side, fourth-seeded Novak Djokovic reached the semifinals for the third consecutive year, beating No. 10 Fernando Verdasco of Spain 7-6 (2), 1-6, 7-5, 6-2. The Serb lost to Roger Federer in the 2007 final and the 2008 semifinals.

He could meet Federer again in the semis this year. The top-ranked Swiss defeated Robin Soderling in the quarterfinals 6-0, 6-3, 6-7 (8-6), 7-6 (8-6).

Also playing Wednesday night was the 17-year-old, unseeded Oudin, whose dream run ended in a quarterfinal match against the 19-year-old Wozniacki 6-2, 6-2.

Play opened with the top-ranked men's doubles team of Americans Bob and Mike Bryan falling to the No. 4 seeds, Lukas Dlouhy of Czech Republic and Leander Paes of India. Dlouhy and Paes, this year's French Open winners, advanced to the final with a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (6) victory to end the defending champs' run at their eighth Grand Slam and third U.S. Open title.

Serena and Venus Williams won their doubles quarterfinal, beating Zi Yan and Jie Zheng of China 7-5, 6-4.

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