Thursday, December 27, 2012

Hanne Skak Jensen and getting just one (1) ranking point

My translations of Anders Haahr Rasmussen's book "Én bold ad gangen - Wozniacki, US Open 2009" continue with a part of the book that deals with what it takes to even get one (1) ranking point in the WTA. Page 34 ff

...Hanne Skak Jensen is Danmark best female tennis player behind Caroline Wozniacki. (Note: Hanne shelved her racquet in 2010: Manixdk) In Wozniacki's absence, she's won the national championships in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. The 23 year-old from Skanderborg travels around the world playing international tournaments 20 weeks a year. When she's home, she plays club matches for Danish KB, or Swedish Helsingborg, or for a German club in Bremen or a French club in Evreux, 100 km from Paris. It depends.

She practices tennis from 9 to 11 and again from 14 to 16, followed by 1½ hours of either strength training or running. It's been that way since she was 16. Her biggest dream as a tennis player is to take part in a Grand Slam tournament.

In the official WTA rankings, where Caroline is number eight (2009), Hanne Skov Jensen is number 340. It's taken her almost five years as a senior to get that high. First she had to get a ranking. You do that by registering for the only tournaments the ITF offers unranked players: the Futures tournaments. There are about 250 of them every year around the world, from Columbia to China, though most of them are in Europe.

Most players start their careers here, but the fewest get any further.

In order to get into a Futures tournament, which has a total purse of $10,000,  you have to play a qualifying tournament, which can consist of up to 128 players. 128 of the best and most eager young tennis talents. You have to beat four of them in a row in order to "quali" for the main tournament. If you're successful, and you manage to win your first round match in the main tournament, you get one (1) ranking point. But you still don't have a ranking.

You only get a ranking when you've won points in three different tournaments. If, for example, you get seven points, that would give you a ranking of around 1,020. It took Hanne Skov Jensen a little more than six months to get a ranking. It took her three more years to get ranked among the world's 500 best players, where she got access to other than Futures tournaments.

By that time Hanne Skov Jensen had been through a separation process that started in her early teenage years, from the time at the age of 13 when she took the trip to Aarhus three times a week to practice with some of Jutland's most talented players.

She quickly became the best in her age group, and at the age of 17 she left home to attend Team Denmark's Elite Centre for Tennis in Farum, where she shared a town house with three other Juttish  talents her age. They were in 1G (1st year Gymnasium, which is something like Junior College), with 32 hours of classes, and 25 hours of practise a week. There were trips to tournaments 15 weeks a year in Västerås in Sweden or Tampere or Miskolc, an industrial town in the north-east of Hungary, where five girls shared a wooden bed in a tiny dormitory.

It was, in Hanne Skov Jensen's own words, "insanely hard, but I thought: I just must become as good a tennis player as possible." And she did. While others cracked, lost the desire, developed depressions, or fell prey to eating disorders and moved back to Jutland, Hanne Skov Jensen stuck it out. She became the best Dane in her age group, and turned pro at 18.

With help from KB, the Danish Tennis Association and her parents home in Skanderborg, she scraped together the 200,000 kroner it costs to travel for a year. When it went really well, she could win half of the money back.

She worked her way through countless Futures tournaments, learned how to find the cheapest air tickets to the most desolate places and developed sharp elbows when she fought 50 other girls to lay claim to just half a practise court for only a half hour.

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