Stars Spotlight

YONEX JAPAN OPEN 2009 - Nicole is simply great!

Any lesser person would have called it quits. But not Germany’s Nicole Grether.

Still grieving from the passing of her father in January, the German, who mainly plays in the women’s doubles with Canada’s Charmaine Reid, is also without a sponsor. And that means sacrificing many of the privileges that ther professional players enjoy on the circuit.

There is no expensive hotel rooms, a room in a private apartment will suffice. She has t make it at least to the quarter-finals of the doubles if she hopes to break even with costs.

But on Thursday, Nicole showed resilience and steely determination to qualify for the last eight of the women’s singles, an event she has given up for the past three years, when she beat Indonesia’s Adriyanti Firdasari in the second round of the YONEX Japan Open in Tokyo.

“I was talking to myself, at the end. I was calling for his help in order to focus. He helped me win today and he would be so proud to see me achieve a quarter final in a Super Series,” said Nicole between tears of joy in obvous reference to her late father.

“It’s an incredible win for me. I had given up singles and stopped playing this event for 3 years to focus on women’s doubles, then, I snapped my Achilles’ tendon at the end of 2007, and when I came back it was like a new beginning so I started playing singles again even if doubles remains my priority. Never would I have imagined reaching this stage in such a big event.

“With Charmaine (Reid), we have no sponsors, we just get some clothing and rackets from YONEX – which I’m already grateful for, and a little bit of help from a Canadian Company, but that’s it. We have to pay for all our travels, our hotels, on our own as we are not supported by any Federation,” adds Nicole, who is sharing her travels with her double’s partner Charmaine Reid from Canada.

“Even if it’s great to be able to have different training opportunities – like we have in Germany, or nowadays in Vancouver with Ardy Wiranata -  it remains very difficult to keep touring the circuit, without a coach and without any other support,” adds the German, who does not stay in the expensive official hotel, but in a room of a private apartment in Roppongi in order to save some money.

“It all comes down to that, and for us, we’d have to make it at least to the quarter-finals of the single’s event to break even, or twice in the second round when there are two competitions back to back. And the worst part is that the Super Series first rounds are not being rewarded anymore, so, it’s made our life even more difficult even if we qualify to the main draw.”

Nicole beat Firdasari, who had hoped that her previous win against Zhou Mi would definitely open her doors to the quarters at least, 15/21 – 21/19 – 27/25 victory. Nicole will take on Eriko Hirose, who stunned Wong Mew Choo in three games to the home fans’ delight.JapOpen-tine-day2

Nicole’s success wasn’t the only surprise of the day in that event, as Tine Rasmussen, third seed, was ousted in spite of a brilliant start against China’s new star Wang Xin. Winning the first game 21/15, the tall Dane was then unable to match Wang’s pace and found herself a bit too late on some of the Chinese’s drops and attacks.

The 18 year old went on for a three-game victory 15/21 – 21/15 – 21/14 to settle a quarter-final clash against Japan’s Mayu Sekiya, who surprised everyone by beating China’s Jiang Yanjiao in three games, scooping a second spot for Japan in the event.

The other big surprise of the day was in the mixed doubles where scratch pair Vita Marissa and Hendra Gunawan beat the mighty Chinese Zheng Bo and Ma Jin. After a splendid match, the Indonesian duo took both second and third games to enter their first quarter-final on their first attempt as a pair – Vita had had similar success with Nova Widianto in the past and Flandy Limpele next.

Nova Widianto, on his end, had a very easy match together with Lilyana Natsir, beating Japan’s Kamura and Yonemato, basically walking during the rallies and hardly pushing his talent.

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