Sep/20

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Roland Garros 2020: You should know Renata Zarazua

I first heard of Renata Zarazua two or three years ago because my friend Hans Gildemeister mentioned her many times. He coached her for a while when she was a top 100 ITF junior. Before Zarazua linked up with former ATP pro Leo Lavalle.

Now Zarazua has made headine news in pro tennis by qualifying for the main draw of Roland Garros, the first Mexican woman since Angelica Gavaldon did it back in 2000 in Australia (Gavaldon made 2R that year, her final year as a WTA pro).

Zarazua’s pro WTA career was slow to develop until this year. She is 22 now and ranked a career high 178 with a very impressive 18-8 won-lost record in 2020. Her breakout result came in February in Acapulco as a wildcard, where she beat Sloane Stephens, Katie Volynets, Tamara Zidansek before losing to Leylah Annie Fermandez in the semi. That run lifted Zarazua from 270 to 191, her first venture into the top 200.

Zarazua played many summer matches in Harry Cicma’s Pro Series in Saddlebrook Tampa during the virus shutdown of the WTA Tour. From there, when pro tennis resumed in August, Zarazua returned to action and made round of 16 in Prague and then finals of ITF $25,000 Prague, beating top seed Barbora Krejcikova 64 76 in the QF.

This week she hit the jackpot. Zarazua just qualified with three match wins at Roland Garros – beating Olga Danilovic, Viktoriya Tomova, and Daniela Seguel – and will now face 17 year old French wildcard Elsa Jacquemot in the first round.

Gavaldon, the last Mexican woman to play a Grand Slam main draw back in 2000, has fond memories of her encounters with Zarazua.

“I had the chance to coach her when I was Fed Cup Captain and she was not the top ranked of the team,” recalls Gavaldon. “I put her to play in a deciding point for us. Because I knew she would perform well under pressure and rise up to the opportunity I was not wrong. She won.”

When asked for details about why she felt so much trust and confidence in Zarazua in such a pressure situation as Fed Cup deciding match, Gavaldon answered: “I honestly don’t remember who she beat – it was a doubles. But she was the only one that never made excuses. She was a super hard worker. Never complained. Very humble and respectful. Extremely coachable. My culture is not easy. A lot of players never make it because of their mentality. Renata is different.”

Zarazua is now making it in pro tennis and could be on the verge of making it big if she can continue her steady progress and admirable work ethic. Zarazua has the natural champion character qualities, and her aura has left a positive lasting impact on Gavaldon, who competed against all the best of the WTA during her own successful pro career in the 1990s and 2000.

“Renata was in town and I asked her to hit with one of my junior players two years ago,” remembers Gavaldon, who reached two Grand Slam quarterfinals in Australia, in 1995 and 1990. “Anyone else would have said No thanks. Immediately she said, ‘Yes, of course.’ And then after she texted to tell me how good this girl is. She is a great player but most of all I respect humbleness and kind human beings.”

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4 comments

  • JohnnyTD · September 26, 2020 at 12:46 am

    Very nice article!!! I remember when Zarazua beat Stephens most people were talking about Stephen’s poor performance, those who care about tennis were amazed by Zarazua’s skills, that backhand, those angles, that power 🛐 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNiVuoueCpQ

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 26, 2020 at 8:35 am

    JohnnyTD, yes Zarazua has got game! And it all came together that week. Gildemeister told me he coached her to finish no. 25 in the world itf junior. She has the pedigree and experience with the top juniors. She cam be another Errani or Cibulkova. She stands only 5-4 but many players have proven size does not matter on the tennis court.

  • Scott :Humphrey · September 28, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    What a wonderful article, and it is great to hear from Angelica Gaveldon. I met Gaveldon in Key Biscayne in 2000, and she was lovely and charming (she graciously took a picture with me). I have been wondering when the next tennis star from Mexico will arrive, and I hope it is Renata. I was so excited she made the main draw. She played beautifully in her first main draw match winning 1 and 2. The Tennis Channel was kind enough to show her match point and to remind us how historic her victory was (they mentioned that Angelica Gaveldon was the last Mexican woman to win a match at Roland Garros or any major). It was great to see how joyful she was. I hope she can put together a career as her role model Angelica Gaveldon. How exciting would it be for Renata to make the quarters of a major someday, just like Angelica did twice.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 28, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    Scott it was an excellent win for Renata and there is a sense she is transforming into an elite player now. The more people who see her play and get to know her character are jumping on her bandwagon too. I know a lot of tennis fans are tired of the same old story lines, Zarazua is a breath of fresh air.

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