Meet Laura Siegemund.
After a strong start, Laura Siegemund’s year of many firsts continues tonight in Palm Springs; in 2016, she’s checked off her first time in the Top 100, her first time in the third round of a Grand Slam, and now her first time in the main draw of Indian Wells. After defeating Irina-Camelia Begu in three sets on Wednesday, the German booked a very special date on Friday evening — a meeting with Serena Williams. René Denfeld introduces his compatriot in this TTI Beginner’s Guide.
Breakthrough seasons can come at all ages. Some players race into the upper echelons of the rankings at the young age of 16 or 17, others take a little longer to put all the pieces together. Laura Siegemund certainly belongs into the latter group, although success at the junior levels came pretty early. After she spent her first few years in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia — where her father worked as an engineer — and just over a year after Steffi Graf concluded her career, the now 28-year-old from Swabia won the prestigious Orange Bowl in the girls’ 12 and under category.
“The new Steffi – what is she made of?”
After winning tennis’ most cherished fruit basket back in December 2000, attention from the German media and the “hype-train” began chugging along rather quickly. As a result, she found herself with the same albatross around her neck as every other German in an era after Becker and Graf — incredible levels of expectations that very few can really live up to and advanced praise that turned into a burden.
Siegemund’s transition from juniors to seniors turned out to be a struggle and it wasn’t until 2010 that the tennis prodigy made her debut on the WTA Tour in Båstad. Her ranking continued to sit around No. 200, putting her just about on the edge of WTA Tour, as well as Grand Slam qualification draws and ITF appearances.
At the age of 24, the German tore both her ligaments in the summer of 2012 and decided to shift her priorities, putting her tennis career on the back burner. Siegemund began studying for a bachelor’s degree in psychology and her trainer certification, which she completed in 2013 as the best of her class.
“I thought it was great,” Siegemund told the German tennis federation about the process of getting her license. “I really enjoyed it. I kept looking forward to the next week because I knew I would be able to absorb new knowledge. We had a good vibe in our group — both in class and on court.”
When asked about her goals a little over two years ago, the German didn’t think she’d head back to a full-time tennis career.
“I’m not really sure yet; two years ago [in 2011], I decided not to play as much anymore. I really couldn’t have anticipated my results and how much I’m enjoying the game again. If things go on the way they do, I can totally imagine myself playing for another three or four years — however, not in full-time, more in combination with studying and coaching.”
In 2014 and 2015, Siegemund climbed back up the rankings — slowly but surely — and entered the Top 100 for the first time in her career after a quarterfinal appearance at the BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open last autumn. In addition, the 28-year-old won the biggest title of her career at the ITF $100,000 event in Biarritz, France, finally qualified for a Grand Slam main draw in singles and picked up three WTA doubles titles.
During the last offseason, the German was busy writing her bachelor thesis — on a topic all too familiar within tennis.
“I’m studying psychology but it is pretty wide-ranging and covers all areas of psychology,” she said. “Still, I can transfer a lot of the foundations from my studies to sports and connect the dots, which is really helpful…I’m currently writing my bachelor thesis about “choking under pressure,” or failing to cope with a public pressure situation — something each athlete and coach is familiar with. Knowing the theory behind sports phenoms like these helps me get a better understanding of them and optimize them — in case of emergency.”
At this year’s Australian Open it certainly worked for Siegemund when she stunned Jelena Jankovic in three sets to book a spot in the third round in Melbourne — and didn’t hold back in her celebration afterwards.
When Siegemund faces Williams later tonight in Indian Wells, it’ll be another arrival of sorts for the 28 year-old — as she plays the World No. 1 in one of the biggest stadiums of the world. It might be 10 years later than anticipated by many, but the German eventually got to the big stage and might yet become a household name in the Top100 — even if her path to get there was.
Hand: Right (two-handed backhand)
WTA titles: None (11 ITF)
Career High Rank: No. 77 (02/15/2016)
Best Slam Result: 3R (Australian Open 2016)
Biggest Win: Timea Bacsinszky (No. 10, Luxembourg 2015)
Best Quote: “As a player — I’m a double-edged sword!”