WTA Spotlight: Top 100 debutants - Fiona Ferro


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WTA Spotlight: Top 100 debutants - Fiona Ferro

The days of glory came for French players last October. A week after Hugo Humbert, Fiona Ferro made her Top 100 debut becoming the 43rd Frenchwoman to climb into that elite, the maiden sine Oceane Dodin in 2016. However, she was unfortunately sick when she played her first match as a Top 100 players in front of her parents at the $80k Internationaux de France de la Vienne in Poitiers, losing in straight sets to the Russian Anna Kalinskaya.

The Belgium-born Ferro, coached by Stéphane Huet, was ranked at No.315 when she had begun the campaign at the $25k ITF event in Andrézieux. On February, she won her first career ITF singles title in Grenoble, then she managed to qualify for her maiden tour-level main draw in Rabat, losing in the first round to Paula Badosa Gibert.

Beaten in Strasbourg at the first hurdle by the No. 6 seed Tímea Babos, Ferro received a wild card for the Roland Garros as she did in 2014, 2015 and 2017. This time, she claimed the first WTA Tour and Grand Slam win of her career, and her maiden Top 100 win, as she defeated Carina Witthöft in the first round.

“That victory changed everything” Ferro admitted. “I had waited for a win like this for three, four years. After the Roland Garros, I played much more relaxed”. Ferro, who needs to feel the highest level of energy in her legs to exploit her game based on quick movements and energy, increased her hopes to directly qualify for the Australian Open and expressed her desire to be selected for the Fed Cup first-round clash in Belgium, her home country.

In Paris, she lost in the second round to Muguruza, the highest-ranked opponent she faced in her career (now ahead of No.10 Agnieszka Radwanska at 2017 Roland Garros). But the ninth tour-level main draw appearance lifted her spirit for the rest of the campaign.

After the Roland Garros, in fact, she completed a 15-match winning streak and clinched three ITF titles in Padova, Montpellier, and Olomouc, where she claimed the first $80k tournament of her career. In Italy, she defeated Ludmilla Samsonova and dedicated her title to her Italian-born grandfather.

Samsonova, the Russian-Italian qualifier who came off a marathon semifinal against her compatriot Martina Di Giuseppe, moved 4-0 ahead but Ferro began to hit freely and more consistently and claimed the first set sealing the last four games from 3-5 down.

In the second set, she maintained a tighter grip on the match and built an unassailable 5-1 lead. The 7-5 6-3 victory made Ferro the third Frenchwoman to win the title there, after Alize Cornet in 2006 and Kristina Mladenovic in 2011.

In Montpellier, she claimed the second straight title without losing a set, surrendering three games per set on average. In the title-match, Ferro used her confidence and experience to defeat the Argentinian clay-courter Catarina Pella who went 5-2 up in the first set and 5-3 in the second but failed to maintain focus and drive in the closing stages.

Ferro claimed a 6-4 6-3 victory and became the fifth French champion in 13 editions of the tournament after Olivia Sanchez in 2006, Anaïs Laurendon in 2009, Mathilde Johansson in 2010, Séverine Belttrame in 2012.

After the Mediterranean Games, she went on to claim her biggest career title in Olomouc beating Karolina Muchova 6-4 6-4 on the clay courts near her parents' home. Then, she managed to win back-to-back matches only in Guangzhou until the end of the season.

Ferro, who made her WTA qualifying debut at 2014 Strasbourg, contested the WTA 125K Series at Limoges in 2016, falling in the first round (l. Jorovic). In 2017, alongside Roland Garros, she made main draw-appearances at tour-level as a qualifier in Acapulco (l.

McHale in the first round), Bogotá (l. Larsson in the first round), and Istanbul (l. Cirstea in the first round), ending the season ranked No.325 (down from No.235 in 2016). Ferro, the daughter of a couple of hotel managers, began to play tennis aged 7, following her brothers' example although their lives followed different patterns.

Her older brother, in fact, run an Italian restaurant in the South of France. She considered to study medicine at the university, but she decided to continue her sports career and entered the CNE, the National Centre of the French Tennis Federation, in February 2017.

Until September, she worked with the former Australian Open junior champion and Roland Garros semifinalist Georges Goven, who notably defeated Ilie Năstase in Paris in September 1977 with the help of the Spaghetti racket, and coached such players as Nicolas Escudé, Nathalie Dechy, Tatiana Golovin and Kristina Mladenovic.

Then, she began to work with Stéphane Huet, the fitness trainer Pascal Supiot and a mental coach to channel her competitive spirit. Ferro showed she has everything to belong to top-level tennis. Future will tell if it was just an illusion or the beginning of a revolution.