|Monday, May 28
Kandarr makes up for lost time
PARIS Jana Kandarr has left it late to make her mark on world tennis at the age of 24, but the East German did so on Monday by knocking local favorite Amelie Mauresmo out of the French Open.
Few gave her a chance against an in-form opponent who had the raucous backing of her home crowd, not least because 12 months ago she lost 6-0, 6-3 on the same Center Court to Wimbledon champion Venus Williams.
But the manner of her 7-5, 7-5 victory against the fifth seed proved there is a plenty more than meets the eye to the striking German.
Kandarr has never had it easy.
She only took up tennis seriously at the age of 14 when her parents moved to what was then West Germany.
Until then it was a question of playing when the weather permitted and if she could find a court in the former East Germany.
"It's difficult because I didn't play when I was really young," she said. "I haven't played juniors or anything. Until I was 14 I grew up in East Germany with a wall around the country so I was never even thinking of playing tennis."
It wasn't her only handicap. A right-hander, Kandarr says she is actually left-handed and only plays with her "wrong" hand because no one told her otherwise.
"I'm actually a left-hander," she said. "That makes it harder, too. I do everything with my left hand but I play with my right hand. Nobody even cared about it in East Germany."
Kandarr has been compared with swimmer Franciska Van Almsick, another East German made good, and it is easy to see why when she relates to what she was up against as a budding tennis player in a communist state.
Her mother, Petra, was a European champion sprinter but encouraged her daughter to play tennis.
"I used to just play on clay. There was no other surface. Half the year I didn't play because there were no indoor courts," she said.
"I used to play basketball in winter, no tennis, maybe once a week for an hour or something. There was no tennis court for the winter.
"It's like eight months winter in Germany so I didn't play that much. It (tennis) wasn't a sport in East Germany. It wasn't considered a sport that the state would support. It wasn't an Olympic sport, it was for the capitalist countries. There was no tradition."
It is impossible to say how good Kandarr might have been if she had received the intensive training enjoyed by many of her rivals on the circuit.
Tall and powerful, she served superbly and proved more than a match for Mauresmo's hard-hitting game, holding her nerve much better than her opponent, who collapsed from 5-1 up to lose the second set.
Asked if it was her best win ever, Kandarr replied: "For sure. It's so difficult to play somebody who's the hero here in France on Center Court."
On Monday she made it look easy.