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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

One to watch: Gisela Dulko

Photo Titled Gisela Dulko
Gisela Dulko
Gisela Dulko’s biggest claim to fame so far is that she once dated Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, the seventh seed here.

On the tennis court the Argentine world No.45 has enjoyed a less glamorous life. Although solid and consistent, the girl from Buenos Aires has hardly forced anyone to send any postcards home about her.

But that could all change as she faces arguably the biggest match of her career on Centre Court today. Dulko kicks off the action on SW19’s biggest court against 2004 winner Maria Sharapova at 1pm.

In her two meetings with Sharapova, Dulko has won just three games. But those matches were back in 2005 and 2006 and the 24-year-old will be hoping to banish those memories against the 24th seed today.

She had enjoyed a decent 2009 so far with fine wins over Jie Zheng (in Hobart), Bethanie Mattek-Sands (in Indian Wells), Jelena Jankovic (in Miami) and Victoria Azarenka (in Stuttgart). Those results will give her hope of beating her previous best at Wimbledon. She has reached the third round three times, in 2004, 2006 and last year.

Dulko will also be looking to improve on a Grand Slam best of the fourth round (which she achieved at the French Open in 2006). She has barely dropped out of the top 50 since turning professional, with a career high of 26 in 2005.

Dulko has reached one final this year – in Bogota in February – when she was beaten by Maria-Jose Martinez Sanchez. In the Australian Open she put up a good fight against Serena Williams before losing 6-3, 7-5 in the second round.

Now Dulko, who took up tennis aged seven after watching brother and now coach Alejandro, has the chance to kick-start her career with a high-profile win.

She certainly has happy memories of her time as a junior at Wimbledon. In 2001 she won the junior doubles competition with American Ashley Harkleroad, one of three junior Grand Slam titles she won.

She would dearly love to claim the scalp of Sharapova and take that next step up the ladder.

And her family and friends back home in Argentina would be only too happy to receive a postcard from London if that were to happen.

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