'The best week of her life'

Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan celebrates defeating Maria Sharapova of Russia during their third...

Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan celebrates defeating Maria Sharapova of Russia during their third round match at the Rogers Cup women's tennis tournament in Toronto on Thursday. (Reuters)

Steve Simmons, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:31 PM ET

She lost quickly, easily — badly really — and it was then that a tennis player named Galina Voskoboeva called this “the best week of her life.”

This is other side of the sporting mountain, worlds away from the Williams sisters or Maria Sharapova, where the best week of a players’ life ends with a quarterfinal loss at a Canadian tournament that has been much more about who lost than who won.

“I was the last qualifier on the weekend,” said Voskoboeva, no kid at 26.

“I went to a tie-breaker in the last set. I didn’t know I’d get in the tournament until I won the tie-break. It was that close.”

This is her life. Every week is a fight for a paycheque, for a place in the draw. Every week is about overcoming pain and odds. When you begin the year as the 528th best player in the world, and you consider there are 56 women in the main draw of most tournaments, you do that math. Voskoboeva does it every week, in a different city, in her head, on the court, trying to find her way.

“I joked with my coach,” she said. “Now that I’m in the (draw), I might as well beat everyone.”

It was a joke. Sort of. She didn’t beat everyone at the Rogers Cup but she did knock Sharapova out of the tournament, making her week and damaging ours.

She earned $41,450 for her singles play. That almost doubles her earnings for the year, pushing her up to the 128th best paid singles player on the tour. Barely enough to pay herself, pay her coach, take care of her travel expenses.

Voskoboeva lost 6-1, 6-2 Friday to the highest seed remaining in the tournament, the unremarkable Victoria Azarenka, the kind of defeat you would expect when a Top 10 player takes on someone nowhere close. But the day before, Voskoboeva had a wish come true. When she got through the qualifiers, when she made the main draw, she began looking at possibilities.

She wanted to play the younger Sharapova.

“I was cheering for her in all her matches.”

She wanted to play her, didn’t figure on beating Sharapova.

“That’s amazing,” she said a day after the win, after being knocked around by Azarenka. The big victory brought a smile to her face, even after losing Friday without much of a fight.

“It was so exciting,” she said of the Sharapova match.

So what happened Friday afternoon?

“I was tired,” said the woman from Kazakhstan. “I was slow. I didn’t feel like I had a lot of energy.”

This is the life of the qualifier. Arrive in Toronto before the main draw players. Play the qualifying round. Hope to get through. Play more than a match most days. And then the tournament begins and you’re somehow in both singles and doubles, even with a sore elbow, and a recovered shoulder from last season’s surgery.

“My elbow’s been hurting from overuse,” she said. “I think my body’s saying, ‘I’m tired.’ You don’t always know why. Between qualis, and singles and doubles and going to physio and doing the press, I wasn’t getting back to my hotel room until 11 most nights. And then I had to get up and play the next morning. That takes its toll.”

The women’s Rogers Cup has been all about disappointing defeats this week. Almost all the major names except Serena Williams withdrew or were beaten. This hasn’t been the kind of tournament organizers or fan hoped for. And it becomes more evident when Roberta Vinci can knock off a Caroline Wozniacki but have none of the same quality of play her next game. The same happened for Voskoboeva. She was great against Sharapova. She could manage that once. She could even manage it somewhat against the No. 9 seed, Marion Bartoli. But on the weekend after qualifiers, there is a rarely a place for a qualifier. Eventually Voskoboeva ran out of time and good fortune.

“Emotionally, this week was perfect, definitely the best,” she said. “I got to play on centre court. I like that.”

And now it’s on to the next town, the next round of qualifiers, and the hope that next week, the next tournament, will be better than the best week of her life.


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