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Siniakova Quietly Walks Along The Path

Matt Zemek

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Eric Bolte - USA TODAY Sports

Katerina Siniakova is not making front-page headlines, but not everyone can. The front page of a blog site or a newspaper lack the space to handle “Page 5” events. The top stories in any theater of activity necessarily crowd out the third-tier developments.

However, this doesn’t mean third-tier developments should be ignored. This doesn’t mean that third-tier stories aren’t important and laden with legitimate news value.

These kinds of stories matter to the public, which deserves to know about events beyond the front page. These stories also matter to the people who create them — in this case, the athletes who take tangible steps forward in their young careers.

Katerina Siniakova is not Aryna Sabalenka or Naomi Osaka. She is not taking the WTA Tour by storm. She is not redefining tennis as we know it. She is not creating hopes among fans that she will be part of the next great rivalry which defines women’s tennis in the 2020s. She is doing none of those things… but again, not everyone can. Not everyone will. Stardom is, by its nature, reserved for a select few. If stardom was pedestrian, it wouldn’t be so publicized. If global fame was ordinary, it wouldn’t command so much attention.

Siniakova is not forcing the world to focus on her tennis — that’s what Sabalenka and Osaka are doing right now in Beijing at the China Open. However, after defeating Aleksandra Krunic on Tuesday, Siniakova has booked a spot in the round of 16 at a Premier Mandatory tournament. This is only the second time she has made the R-16 at a Premier Mandatory event. Such is the growth pattern for the Czech. She has clearly raised her floor in 2018 — this has undeniably been a season of evolution and progress for the 22-year-old.

Siniakova has learned lessons this year about the art of competition. She won third sets 8-6 and 9-7 to make the third round of Wimbledon. She won a 7-5 third and and a third-set tiebreaker at the U.S. Open to make the third round there. All in all, Siniakova — who entered 2018 with four match wins in the main draws at major tournaments — won seven matches in main draws at majors this year alone, nearly double her career total. She never made the fourth round at any of the four majors, but she reached the third round in three of them. She had reached the third round only once in 13 previous main-draw appearances at majors.

Last week in Wuhan, Siniakova dismissed Caroline Garcia, the defending champion, from the tournament, winning two tiebreakers, one of them in the third set. She then excused Garbine Muguruza from Wuhan, winning two more tiebreakers. Siniakova is not the portrait of relentless consistency — that’s what Sabalenka and Osaka are doing — but she has clearly learned how to fight through rough patches and tight scoreline situations this season.

She has made tangible improvements in how she copes with stress and the voices in the head every tennis player — every athlete — must conquer in order to be successful. She is not stopping the tennis community in its tracks, but that’s okay: She is moving forward along the road the professional athlete must travel, and at 22, a continued growth curve — in which each year brings the kind of progress 2018 has brought to the table — will put her in a very good place when she reaches age 24 and 25.

Katerina Siniakova isn’t a headline-making star, but she is moving a young career in the right direction — steadily and over the course of a full season, not just in the autumn swing.

That is progress. It isn’t front-page news, but it is news — and very much worth sharing.

Matt Zemek is the co-editor of Tennis With An Accent with Saqib Ali. Matt is the lead writer for the site and helps Saqib with the TWAA podcast, produced by Radio Influence at radioinfluence.com. Matt has written professionally about men's and women's tennis since 2014 for multiple outlets: Comeback Media, FanRagSports, and independently at Patreon, where he maintains a tennis site. You can reach Matt by e-mail: mzemek@hotmail.com. You can find him on Twitter at @mzemek.

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