No Frills, No Crowds, No Money: The Lonely Road to Tennis Glory

Aleksandra Wozniak, left, shook hands with Claire Liu, who defeated Wozniak in the first round of an International Tennis Federation circuit tournament in Charlottesville, Va., in April.

 

For two players at distinct points in their careers, the path to the lucrative WTA Tour begins in small towns on the humbling Pro Circuit.

 

By DAVID WALDSTEIN
JUNE 26, 2017


Less than a half-hour after a crushing defeat in front of two spectators, Aleksandra Wozniak paced the hallways of the municipal tennis center in Dothan, Ala., pleading on the phone with an airline representative.

 

Wozniak, a former top-25 player, had hoped to stay longer at the small tournament, but the loss forced her to immediately arrange a cheap 6 a.m. connection back home to Montreal. Once there, she would prepare anew for the next small tournament a week later in Charlottesville, Va., another lonely stop on a punishing minor league tennis tour.

In Dothan and Charlottesville, Wozniak, 29, competed alongside a special stratum of players struggling to claw their way out of tennis’s underappreciated lower rungs. Among those players is Fanny Stollar, a statuesque, 18-year-old Hungarian with hopes of joining the sport’s elite.

 

Stollar and Wozniak are at distinct stages in their careers. One is a rising prospect, the other a veteran making a comeback. But their goal — to play regularly on the WTA Tour — is the same, and for now they share a platform on the International Tennis Federation Pro Circuit, the junior varsity of professional tennis, where purses are too small to earn a living.

 

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