Alisa Kleybanova - Career - 2008



Kleybanova began the 2008 season early by entering qualifying for the WTA Tier III tournament at Gold Coast, Australia in late December 2007. She qualified for the main draw of a WTA event for just the second time in her career so far, some seventeen months after reaching the Tier IV main draw at Budapest in July 2006. Her vanquished opponents were World No. 97 Tatiana Perebiynis, whom she defeated 7–5 6–2 in the first round of qualifying, World No. 121 Yuan Meng of China, whom she beat 6–3 5–7 6–2 in the second, and former Top-50 Chinese star Zheng Jie, whom she ousted 6–2 4–6 6–1 in the qualifying round. But in the first round of the main draw she faced Swiss World No. 16 Patty Schnyder, and lost to her 1–6 3–6.

In mid-January, she followed this up by entering qualifying for the Australian Open, and came through relatively comfortably to the first Grand Slam main draw of her still-young career with straight-sets wins over Canadian World No. 166 Marie-Ève Pelletier, Czech World No. 116 Iveta Benešová, and French World no. 136 Olivia Sanchez. In the first round of the main draw, she defeated Chinese World No. 45 Peng Shuai 7–5 4–6 9–7. But in Round Two she had to face World No. 6 Anna Chakvetadze, and lost to her 3–6 4–6.

Nonetheless, in reaching the second round of a Grand Slam as a qualifier, Kleybanova had earned 91 ranking points, sufficient to raise her World Ranking to a new personal best of 112th.

The next tournament for which she entered herself was another high-level WTA event, the Tier II fixture at Paris in early February. She won the first two rounds of qualifying, defeating her compatriot World No. 127 Galina Voskoboeva 6–4 6–4 in the first and a Belgian outsider in the second, but then lost to Czech World No. 70 Klára Zakopalová in the qualifying round. She emerged from this experience ranked just six places higher at World No. 106.

The following week, undeterred, she attempted to qualify for another Tier II WTA tournament at Antwerp, Belgium, and this time succeeded, after defeating World No. 206 Ekaterina Dzehalevich 6–3 7–6(4) in the second round of the qualifying draw, and Swedish World No. 67 Sofia Arvidsson 4–6 7–5 6–3 in the qualifying round. In the first round of the main draw, she stunned World No. 18 Ágnes Szávay of Hungary 6–2 6–3; and in the second she edged out World No. 38 Kateryna Bondarenko of the Ukraine in an extremely close match, 7–5 3–6 7–5, to reach her career-first WTA-level quarter-final, where she met World No. 1 Justine Henin for the first time. Although the Russian teenager lost 4–6 3–6, she was assured of taking home enough ranking points from this event to reach into the World Top 100 for the first time in her career; and in practice she landed at World No. 82.

In late February she entered the qualifying draw for the Tier II event at Dubai and defeated World No. 60 Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland 6–3 6–3 in the first round before losing a very close three-set battle in the second round of qualifying to rising World No. 123 Monica Niculescu of Romania despite winning more games than her opponent in the overall match, 6–7 6–2 5–7.

In early March, her ranking having slipped just a couple of places to No. 84, she entered qualifying for the Tier I tournament at Indian Wells, having failed by only one place to attain direct entry, but unexpectedly fell at the first hurdle in three sets to Japanese World No. 186 Rika Fujiwara, 6–3 1–6 5–7.

Towards the end of the month, she persevered in attempting to gain entry to events of Tier I calibre at Miami, and this time succeeded, scoring back-to-back comfortable straight-sets victories over Hungarian World No. 127 Gréta Arn and resurgent former Top 50 star Mashona Washington of the USA, for the collective loss of just nine games in two matches. In the main draw, she defeated World No. 44 Olga Govortsova of Belarus (6–3 6–7(6) 6–2) then unexpectedly one-sidedly thrashed World No. 15 Nicole Vaidišová of the Czech Republic to reach the third round, where she lost to on-form World No. 20 Vera Zvonareva of Russia 1–6 4–6. The sixty-five ranking points accrued from this performance lifted her world ranking to a new career high of No. 70.

At Wimbledon in June, Kleybanova played in three events: Ladies' Singles, Ladies' Doubles (with Dominika Cibulková of Slovakia), and Mixed Doubles (with Sonchat Ratiwatana of Thailand). In Ladies' Singles, she made it to the fourth round, her best career Grand Slam tournament result, losing 6–3, 6–4 to the reigning Wimbledon champion and number seven seed Venus Williams. On the way, she defeated unseeded Tzipora Obziler of Israel 6–4, 6–0 in the first round, beat number ten seed Daniela Hantuchová of Slovakia in the second round, and overcame unseeded Ai Sugiyama of Japan 6–4, 6–4 in the third round. She retired in the first round of Ladies' Doubles and lost in the first round of Mixed Doubles.

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