Success has become second nature for Sonay Kartal in 2022, with the Brighton tennis ace thriving on home soil and surging up the WTA rankings this seasonwrites Sportsbeat’s Oli Dickson-Jefford.
Kartal, who benefits from the LTA’s NTC Pro Access programme, which is for players ranked 100-200 in singles and 31-100 in doubles, providing cost-free access to courts on all three surfaces, coaching, trainers and the LTA’s tournament bonus scheme , started 2022 at 864th in the WTA rankings
Yet, four W25 titles in Britain – in Glasgow, Birmingham and back-to-back victories in Nottingham – coupled with her grass court performances this season have pushed her up to a career-high of 268th.
All of these tournaments were part of the LTA’s enhanced Performance Competitions Calendar, with the number of events rising from seven men’s events and eight women’s events in 2019 to 16 for both men and women in 2022. This is in addition to the grass-court season. playing opportunities already in place.
It has ensured that British players have more competitive opportunities on home soil, cutting down on travel costs and helping to promote a rankings boost for a host of players.
For a player whose development was affected by the pandemic and then injury trouble in 2021, her progression has been remarkable – but Kartal refuses to rest on her laurels.
She said: “When lockdown finished, that was the biggest turning point for me. I changed the way I looked and became so much stronger on the court.
“I took about a month to transition all that strength that I’d worked hard on the gym to put that on the tennis court. I’ve definitely got a lot stronger which has made a big difference to my game.
“I want to try and be top 100 in the world and play all the slams – I also want to still love tennis, I don’t want that feeling of enjoying coming on the court to ever disappear and for it to feel like a chore .”
There have been many highlights for Kartal in 2022, one being this week’s run to the last four at the LTA’s Ilkley Trophy, where she will face compatriot Jodie Burrage for a place in the final.
However perhaps the standout moment was her first time representative of her country, featuring in Anne Keothavong’s squad for Great Britain’s Billie Jean King Cup tie against the Czech Republic in April.
“Playing in the [BJK Cup] squad was one of my dreams growing up,” Kartal commented.
“It was something I always wanted to achieve. I didn’t expect things to happen how they have this quickly within the space of a few months.
“Representing your country is a huge honor and team events for me are something that I thrive in, they are my favorite events and just being in that team atmosphere and supporting everyone – you win as a team, you lose as a team.”
Kartal may be targeting further BJK Cup appearances in the future – especially now the finals will be held in Glasgow this November – while her recent rise has been rewarded with a Wimbledon wildcard.
However, the 20-year-old prefers to stay in the present, focusing on her tennis match-by-match rather than long term goals.
That mindset helped her in Ilkley on Friday, where she beat Switzerland’s Simona Waltert 6-3 6-2 in challenging conditions to set up a semi-final date with Burrage tomorrow.
She added: “I think she [Waltert] was struggling with a bad wrist it seemed.
“The conditions today were really tricky, it picked up quite a lot during the match. I just tried to accept that I’m not going to play tennis in this kind of weather, so I just had to stick with it throughout the whole match.
“I’m happy. I’m just taking it one match at a time. I’m not looking any further ahead, at the end of the day I’m just focusing and concentrating on who’s across the net from me.”
For the latest action on the British summer grass court season, check out the LTA Website