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Finally healthy, McHale has big plans

January 14, 2013 09:41 AM
Christina McHale will take on Kazak Yulia Putintseva in her opening-round match.
By Matt Cronin, special to USTA.com
 
MELBOURNE—Christina McHale has made notable progress since she began playing full-time on the tour in 2010. She defines hard work and commitment and is said to be a very good listener, which are some of the reasons why the scrappy player has visibly improved her offense.
 
But during the New Jersey resident’s steady climb up the ranking charts, where she cracked the Top 25 last summer, she was stopped in her tracks.
 
While at the London Olympics last summer, she caught a stomach virus and her season went downhill fast. She had almost no energy and only managed to win two matches the rest of the year, with losses in her last four.
 
Bad luck or a lack of rest, her body shut down and it took her a while to find out exactly what was ailing her. When she returned from the Olympics, she went to the hospital to have her stomach checked. The doctors said she had a form of colitis from something she ate. Then an alarm went off.
 
"A few weeks later I wasn’t feeling better, and the doctor said, ‘You should be feeling better,’" McHale recounted, prior to the start of this year’s Australian Open. "I had more tests and then they said I was at the end of mono. They thought that maybe I caught the stomach virus because my immune system was weak because of the mono. You have to take the right amount of rest, and I didn’t."
 
McHale said she might have made a mistake in trying to play tournaments in Asia after the US Open; after the loss to Kiki Bertens, she said she was inexplicably sapped in the third set. In fact, she didn’t start feeling 100 percent until November, allowing her to get in a few good weeks of offseason training.
 
The 20-year-old feels positive coming into 2013, but she’s never had a major injury or anything that has kept her off court for an extended period of time, so she felt a bit out of sorts coming back into match play.
 
In Sydney last week, she played fairly well in going down to world No. 6 Li Na, 7-6 (2), 7-5, but afterward rued her missed opportunities.
 
It’s frustrating because I want to start winning some matches and get back to where I was," said McHale, who has fallen to No. 37 in the rankings. "I need to get more match play in, and once I do I think I will be able to deal with my nerves better. But I’m not getting tired at all, and physically I feel 100 percent, so I’m happy about that."
 
McHale opens her Australian Open campaign Tuesday against Kazak Yulia Putintseva. Should she win that contest, she could face seventh seed Sara Errani in the second round. Realistically, if she plays as well as she did last year and adds a few more elements to her game, she’ll have a clear shot at the Top 20.
 
"I’d love that, but the last couple of matches I tried to push myself to play to not let my ranking slip, and I probably should have taken the time off to get better," she said. "This year I’m going to try not to think about my ranking."
 
McHale would also like to reach the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time. If she can get a couple of wins and regain her confidence, it’s possible that she could accomplish that this fortnight in Melbourne.
 
"That," she said, "would be huge."
 
U.S. Notes
 
McHale is not the only young U.S. player who will be in action Tuesday in Melbourne. Sloane Stephens, who reached the quarterfinals of Brisbane and semifinals of Hobart, both Australian Open tune-ups, is seeded at a major for the first time at No. 29 and will face Simona Halep.
 
Also, former US Open quarterfinalist Melanie Oudin takes on British teen Laura Robson, who broke out at the 2012 US Open by upsetting Kim Clijsters and Li Na. Lauren Davis, 19, who looked good in losing a very close two-hour, 40-minute quarterfinal to Stephens in Hobart, will play another teenager, Daria Gavrilova, who won the 2010 US Open junior title.
 
USTA Australian Open wild card winner Rhyne Williams will play 25th seed Florian Mayer, while Vania King will face 14th seed Maria Kirilenko. Varvara Lepchenko, the , 21st seed, will play Polona Hercog, and qualifier Rajeev Ram will take on Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. Serena Williams, who has only lost one match since late May and is considered to be the tournament favorite, will take of Edina Gallovits-Hall.
 
Venus Williams, who defeated Galina Voskoboeva on Monday, says she is committed to playing the U.S. Fed Cup tie against Italy in Rimini, Feb. 9-10.
 
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<​div>For more coverage of American players at the 2013 Australian Open, see:
 
 
 

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