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Pressure off for Vaidisova

Nicole Vaidisova

I'm not surprised what's happened to me.

Nicole Vaidisova has got the modern tennis mantra down to a fine art - pressure is a dirty word.

She returns to the French Open one year on from making her Grand Slam breakthrough by reaching the semi-finals, but insists: "I don't put any huge pressure on myself, I just try to do my best and have fun."

But the 18-year-old Czech has since reached the last four at the Australian Open and risen to number 10 in the world. Ask her to assess her stellar 12 months and it's all part of the plan.

"No, I'm not surprised what's happened to me in the last year," she tells BBC Sport.

"It was a great year - so many new memories, first semi-finals here at the French Open and then the Australian Open.

"It's a little different from last year as I didn't play for the last month, I had a little wrist problem, but I'm healthy again and I'm just happy to be out here playing."

It's just match by match; I pretty much just see who arrives on court and play

Nicole Vaidisova
British tennis fans will know more than they would wish about wrist problems bearing in mind Andy Murray's current situation, but there might be some hope in the fact that Vaidisova has returned after just one month out.

"It's a little stretch, a pulled tendon," she said after beating Emmanuelle Gagliardi 6-4 6-3.

"For the last week and a half I've been pain free and I'm just taping it as a precaution. I'm lacking some matches but it gives me no pressure in this tournament, I can surprise myself."

Bearing in mind the media interest - she speaks to Al Jazeera, French television, American, Czech and British journalists after her news conference - does she really feel "no pressure"?

"Of course last year I got to the semis and people notice that but it's fun coming back, playing on Chatrier again," she says. "I'm really enjoying it."

That may change if Vaidisova goes deep into the second week as favourites Justine Henin, Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic are all in her half of the draw. Not that she knew that.

"I have not seen the draw, I swear to you," she says in the face of some disbelief. "I've seen the first and second rounds and that's about how far I go. It's just match by match. I pretty much just see who arrives on court and play."

Nicole Vaidisova
Vaidisova has reaped the benefits from a confident approach this year

And when Roland Garros is done and dusted for another year the tour rolls on to Wimbledon and a surface Vaidisova is trying to get to grips with.

"Grass is definitely challenging," she says with a smile. "It's just once a year, but it's fun to change it up a little bit. It's something different."

Vaidisova did well to reach the fourth round last year on the back of her exploits in Paris and sees no reason to expect anything less this year.

"I wasn't surprised to get to the last 16, I like challenges," she says. "But the atmosphere really makes you want to play great and stay as long as possible. Everybody can feel it there."


Rezai outplays Sharapova to reach Istanbul Cup final

ISTANBUL: Aravane Rezai beat top-seeded Maria Sharapova 6-2, 6-4 Friday to reach the final of the Istanbul Cup. The 20-year-old Frenchwoman, who is ranked 62nd, will meet another Russian player, Elena Dementieva, in Saturday’s final of the clay-court French Open warmup. “I am glad that I came here and I played a few matches before Roland Garros, though it is unfortunate to lose in the semi-finals,” Sharapova said.

Sharapova, who served seven double faults, is now looking ahead to doing well at the French Open. “I have all the motivation in the world,” she said. “I have been working very hard in the last weeks.” Rezai, who defeated Venus Williams in the second round, is seeking her first WTA title. “It is the best result of my career this is the fruit of my work,” Rezai said. Earlier Friday, Dementieva beat fifth-seeded Alona Bondarenko 7-6 (5), 6-2. “I’m looking forward to my first final of the year,” the second-seeded Dementieva said. The French Open starts Sunday. ap