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Youth Olympic Games tennis player aims at Gold Slam

2014-08-20 15:26 Xinhua Web Editor: Gu Liping

Top-ranked Russian female junior, Daria Kasatkina, has slammed her way into the next rounds of all her three tennis events at the Youth Olympic Games as she aims to seize some golden hardware.

While the 17-year-old is hungry for victories in Nanjing, her ambitions already have her looking ahead at the top prizes in the pro circuit.

"Of course I want to win here, but the most important thing for me is to improve the quality of my game so that I can transition to the professional circuit already prepared for everything," Kasatkina said after her training session on Wednesday.

The Russian junior started playing tennis when she was six. Her father, a former hockey player, and her mother, a track and field athlete, decided to get their daughter involved in a sport with a lower risk of injury and Kasatkina fell instantly in love with it.

Her career goal is to win the Golden Slam -- all four Grand Slams and an Olympic gold -- and she has already had a small taste of this big time success. Kasatkina won the juniors tournament at the French Open in June and is a top contender for several Youth Olympic medals.

Although she is ranked third in the junior rankings, Kasatkina said that ranking points are losing their meaning as she prepares to transition to the pro circuit and that it is her performance in Nanjing that will be the real test of her potential.

"Right now the ranking is not as important because a lot of the girls went over to the professional circuit and got some ranking points there," Kasatina said. "You need to pay attention only to the game and how the person acts on the court."

Many of the players at the Youth Olympic Games, including Kasatkina, will wrap up their juniors careers shortly after this competition and start playing adult tournaments.

There are already several examples of successful transitions that followed the 2010 Youth Olympic Games. Jiri Vesely of Czech Republic, who won the men's doubles event in Singapore, is now ranked 76. Among other 2010 Youth Olympic Games participants, Elina Svitolina of Ukraine is ranked 34, Monica Puig of Puerto Rico is ranked 63, and Jana Cepelova of Slovenia is 65. Some of the tennis players who competed in Singapore also went on to compete in the 2012 London Olympic Games.

But the transition to professional tennis is still a daunting one.

"Making the transition between junior tennis and professional tennis can be very expensive," said Luca Santilli, head of juniors tennis at the International Tennis Federation. "If you have to pay for a good coach, it would cost you 60,000 dollars a year, minimum. It's normally around 120,000 dollars for coach, travel, stringing, laundry, balls."

Kasatkina, who currently holds a 638 singles ranking, is already looking into how to deal with these challenges. She lives in Tolyatti, Russia, but is searching for a new place to train. One of the top options is a training base near Brussels where she expects to get good coaches and skilled opponents.

"I demand a lot from myself," she said of her career goals. "But that is the only way. You have to demand from yourself more than you are capable of."

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