Both world No. 121 Misako Doi and world No. 133 Yanina Wickmayer would know this better than most. The Japanese and her Belgian opponent took to court on Tuesday afternoon at the BNP Paribas Open looking to qualify for the main draw of one of the biggest tournaments on the planet – but not long ago, these two hard-hitting competitors would have been main-draw entrants and, possibly, dark horses for the title.
Flash back to 2010. A 20-year-old Wickmayer was seeded 13th in Indian Wells and vying for a place in the world’s Top 10 following an impressive run of results, which included a surprise semifinal finish at the US Open the year prior. Just wins away from entry into that coveted class of player, she bowed out to (at the time) unheralded Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez – and it hasn’t quite been the same since.
Flash forward five years. Doi, armed with a scintillatingly dynamic lefty forehands in the game, was making waves across the WTA tour. After pushing eventual semifinalist to the brink at the French Open and Rogers Cup champion Belinda Bencic in New York, the 5’3” pocket rocket earned her first title in Luxembourg, precipitating a rise into the Top 30. She was unable to back up her success, however, and has quietly slid down the rankings since.
And back to today. Healthy and motivated to get back to where they were not so long ago, both players went head-to-head for the first time in a tense battle that, after nearly two hours, saw Doi claim a 7-6(2), 7-5 win to clinch her place in the main draw.
The difference of height between both players – Wickmayer stand broadly at nearly six feet while Doi scurries around the court at nearly a foot shorter – was evident in their styles early on. The Belgian former world No. 11 struck five aces in the set, but it was for naught as Doi counterpunched her way to winning the first set.
Forehand firing and the confidence to facilitate it, Doi rushed out to an early lead in the second set, relinquishing her break at 5-4 while serving for the match but regaining the lead a game later. Closing it out to 30, the two met to shake hands at the net – out of respect for a match well fought and, perhaps, in quiet acknowledgement of the journey back to the top ahead of both of them.
Doi will face Ons Jabeur in the first round.