People who watch and follow tennis are constantly, necessarily and inevitably interested in who plays the best at the biggest tournaments. Accordingly, players such as Polona Hercog aren’t normally found on the biggest stages in the biggest moments of a tennis season.
Hercog, 28 years old, hasn’t made the second week of any major, and the third round in only two instances: 2017 Wimbledon and 2010 Roland Garros. She hasn’t made a single quarterfinal at any Premier Mandatory or Premier 5 tournament.
This isn’t so much a portrait of failure. Not every player is talented enough to make quarterfinals at huge tournaments. Not every player will attain the level of success she or he dreams about. It is well worth reiterating — all the time — that being a second-round-level player at the majors and Premier Mandatories, and a round-of-16 player at smaller tour stops, represents a tremendous level of achievement in the larger global framework of tennis.
If only several dozen human beings on this planet are better than you, that’s outstanding on a larger scale. It is modest only in relationship to the elites who have achieved at the very highest level of competition.
Therefore, while February, April and post-Wimbledon July are never the months when tennis greatness is achieved in a way the history books immortalize, they are still months when professionals laboring in the trenches can pick up championships and remind themselves why they do what they do.
There are no Premier Mandatories or Premier 5s in February or April or in the post-Wimbledon clay portion of July. Yet, those are the only months in which Polona Hercog has made WTA Tour final appearances.
Acapulco on clay. Bastad. Palermo. Istanbul. These cities — not Madrid or Rome or Miami or Toronto — are where Hercog played her WTA Tour championship matches before this week. All those tour stops are International events, none at the Premier level.
On Sunday, Lugano, Switzerland, was added to the list. Hercog faced Iga Swiatek for another chance at an International title.
The Simona Haleps and Elina Svitolinas of the world have their eyes firmly focused on Roland Garros, but that doesn’t mean every player can — or should — own the same aspiration.
For Polona Hercog — whose last tour win came seven years ago (Bastad, 2012) and who went nearly six years without a final (July of 2012 to April of 2018) — winning Lugano in three sets over Swiatek represents a high point of a season.
That is a basic reality — it might feel like a dismissive swipe from someone who cares only about the majors or the Premier Mandatories, but it is truly meant as a happy statement and a validation of all the effort professionals put into their craft.
If you can win anywhere on tour, any time of the year, it matters, and it ought to matter.
Polona Hercog will cherish this Lugano title, and well she should. So it goes for the other winners in the Februaries, Aprils, and post-Wimbledon clay Julys of every tennis season.