Monday, Aug. 25, 2008 | 1:44 p.m.
Henderson’s Asia Muhammad was defeated 6-2, 6-4 by France’s Aravane Rezai Monday in the first round of the U.S. Open.
Rezai, who has career wins against Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova, proved to be too experienced.
Muhammad, 17, said she was excited to earn a wild card entry to the tournament, but still was disappointed by her effort.
“I think a lot of players feel like it’s an honor, but once you get out on the court you have to forget about it soon or else you won’t be out there for long,” she said.
Muhammad competed in her first U.S. Open last year but failed to advance into the main draw, where the top tournament players compete.
Tim Blenkiron, Muhammad’s coach at the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation, said Muhammad was a different player this time around.
“She was very nervous her first time at the U.S. Open,” Blenkiron said. “She’s a young player and you have to struggle before (you) play well.”
Muhammad has been active on the Women’s Tennis Association tour since taking second at the Tennis Channel Open last March at Darling Tennis Center in Las Vegas. She has defeated three professionals ranked in the top 100 this summer, proving the high finish was no fluke.
“It’s been a lot of fun, but at the same time there are a lot opportunities of earning a lot of points,” Muhammad said. “There’s not really a lot of pressure because I’m not really supposed to win.”
As of today, Muhammad has a 9-5 professional record and is ranked No. 420 in the world. Her best performance came at April’s MovieGallery Pro Classic, where she defeated the No. 2 ranked junior in the world, Melanie Oudin, 6-2, 6-3. After winning three qualifying rounds she advanced to the main draw and defeated No. 177 ranked professional Kopp Jones, 6-2, 6-2. A leg injury hampered Muhammad’s performance in the second round as she lost to the eventual tournament winner, Bethany Mattek, 6-4, 6-3.
“That was a really big tournament for me, but it was kind of disappointing to get injured,” Muhammad said. “I had to take eight weeks off, but I haven’t felt it at all since.”
Muhammad has taken the attention of being Southern Nevada’s next big tennis player in stride. The once introverted player has grown to love playing in front of an audience.
“I have definitely been playing a lot better because I feel more relaxed,” she said. “You still get nervous before you play but I’m able to forget about it when I play. The professional tournaments have really helped. When I was younger I hated playing in front of people. Now it’s the complete opposite for me, I love playing the center court.”
Sean Ammerman is a reporter for the Home News. He can be reached at 990-2661 or [email protected].