Russian stars don't hold all aces, says Czech

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 January, 2005, 12:00am

Rising Czech star Nicole Vaidisova gave a clear message to her more illustrious opponents after being thrust in the firing line for this week's Watsons Water Champions Challenge. She said: 'I fear nobody.'

Thrown into the singles competition after six-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams gave up her singles berth because of injury concerns, the 15-year-old Vaidisova says she will make the most of the opportunity, feeling she has nothing to lose against the world stars as she takes her place in the Red Group with Russians Maria Sharapova and Elena Dementieva.

'They should be the ones beating me and I know they will be on the court trying to win. But I'll definitely go on the court without any fear,' said 75th-ranked Vaidisova, who arrived yesterday for the tournament, which starts on Wednesday.

Vaidisova also teams up with two-time Grand Slam singles finalist Dementieva in the doubles competition, where they are drawn to meet the Williams sisters - Serena and Venus - in the first round.

'It's great. It's a great opportunity. Of course I am sorry for Serena. It's bad that she cannot play [singles] but it gives me the opportunity to show the people how I play. I'm looking forward to it and I hope people like how I play,' said the Florida-based Czech, who is touted as the next big thing in women's tennis.

'It's going to be my first time playing them [Sharapova and Dementieva]. I'm looking forward to playing them. They are both top 10 players. I want to see the comparison [between herself and her opponents].'

The powerful 1.81-metre Vaidisova added: 'I think it's going to be a great experience. It's going to be great preparation for the Australian Open and I am really happy to be here.'

Asked whether she would be ready to face her opponents, the German-born Czech, who won WTA tournaments last season in Tashkent and Vancouver, said: 'Definitely. After last season, I took some time off. I've practised and I feel good and I am ready to play.'

At yesterday's news conference, the topic of Vaidisova being compared with Sharapova came up again and the Czech reiterated that there was 'nothing to compare'.

Already comparisons are being drawn between Vaidisova and Sharapova, who burst on to the scene here two years ago.

Vaidisova is seen as the 'new Sharapova' with her powerful serve and sleek looks reminiscent of Sharapova in 2002.

'I admire Maria for what she did. She's an awesome player and she did great last year. But you know I am Nicole. I am not Maria and I am going down my own path and I am trying to be me and I am trying to do it my way.'

A product of the famous Nick Bolletieri Academy, Vaidisova won her first WTA Tour title in Vancouver in August when at the age of just 15 years, three months and 23 days, she eliminated four seeds on her way to becoming the sixth-youngest player to win a tour title. She was also the lowest-ranked champion in 2004.

Superstitious Vaidisova has not let anybody know what her goals are for this year.

She said she would rather keep that to herself because she reached the top 100 last year 'without telling anybody'.