Vera Lapko, a former junior world No.1, completed the 2018 season as the youngest Belarusian in the top-100. As she said in an exclusive interview to wtatennis.com, she started to feel smarter and more experience, to work harder and think on self-improvement on- and off-court.
"I think it is not a secret if I say that I have heavy shots, so I think power which I can create is one of my weapons. I still have a lot of things to improve...I'm trying to work harder from week to week and improve my skills on the court," Lapko said to Victoria Chiesa http://www.wtatennis.com/news/100-club-vera-lapko-riding-belarusian-boom-2019.
"There is really no particular thing I changed since I was No. 130 or No. 250. It might seem simple but it’s just like this. Just one thing is important – hard work". With that in mind, she made her top-100 debut on May, 7 this season at No.92 and reached a career-high rank of No.60 in October.
The Minsk-born Lapko trains there, at the Palace of Tennis, and also can practice at the ProWorld Tennis Academy in Delray Beach, Florida, with her homegrown staff. More than three years ago, she began working with Vladimir Kruk, Olga Govortsova's former coach, and Tatsiana Lavets, an experienced fitness coach who worked with a lot of top athletes.
Lapko, who began her sports career in figure skating having to stop in two years because she became too tall to continue, followed her brother's path and dedicated to tennis. It was love at first sight for the Belarusian who played her first professional matches on ITF Circuit in 2014, qualifying at the $10k event in Antalya and reaching the first semifinal at $25k tournament in Minsk.
Next year, in Sharm El Sheikh, she won her the first of her six ITF singles titles. In 2016, she made her WTA main draw debut in Katowice as a wildcard, losing to Kulichkova in the first round. Member of the Belarus Fed Cup team that advanced to the maiden final in 2017, against the USA in Minsk, in 2017 she rose from No.320 to No.131, her year culminating in a maiden WTA quarterfinal run in Moscow where she held a match point before losing to Begu.
This year the Belarusian, an avid Liverpool fan, reached her first career semifinal in Lugano, defeating No.28 Kontaveit en route for the career-best win to date (l.
Mertens). She began the season with losses in tour qualifying at Brisbane, Australian Open, St Petersburg, Budapest, Indian Wells, and Miami.
Finally, she successfully qualified in Charleston, before retiring against Buzarnescu in the first round with a left knee injury. On red clay, apart from Lugano, she won back-to-back ITF Circuit titles at $100k ITF event in Khimki (d.
Potapova) and at $60k tournament in St Gaudens (d. Lemoine) before heading to Roland Garros where she lost to Andreescu in qualifying. She went 3-3 on grass in the lead-up to Wimbledon, reaching the second round in Nottingham (l.
Vekic), the second qualifying round in Birmingham (l. Perrin) and the quarterfinal at $100k ITF event in Southsea (l. Flipkens). At the All England Club, she made her Grand Slam main draw debut defeating No.90 McHale to advance to the second round.
A former junior Wimbledon semifinalist in 2015, she lost to Goerges in a three-set clash. She has yet to beat a top-20 opponent, having lost to Mertens in Lugano and in the Us Open second round. But in the Asian swing, she reached the third, fourth and fifth career WTA quarterfinal in Guangzhou, losing to Petkovic, Tashkent, where No.94 Mona Barthel upset her to become the highest-ranked semifinalist, and Luxembourg, where Belinda Bencic avenged the 1-6 6-1 6-0 defeat, suffered a week earlier in the first round of Linz to claim her first WTA semifinal since 's-Hertogenbosch 2016. She refused to pick any goals for the future. Working hard is enough to nurture her ambitions.