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Leaving baggage behind: Petra Martic and two taxing travel ordeals leading up to the US Open
One suitcase is yet to be found; the other was left sitting in the middle of baggage claim until the Croatian went to investigate at LaGuardia Airport.
Published Aug 29, 2022
Last week was Fan Week at Flushing Meadows. On one early afternoon, Wimbledon finalist Ons Jabeur was on court practicing with Petra Martic.
Those catching a glimpse of the hitting session are fully aware the pair of WTA standouts are making final preparations for the US Open. What bystanders don’t know is that Martic is on short rest, with baggage on the brain. We’re not talking the emotional kind here. Over the past four weeks, the 31-year-old has seen two pieces of luggage—on two different continents with two different airlines—go missing.
July appeared to be nothing but a positive period for Martic. At Wimbledon, she reached the round of 16 before falling to eventual champion Elena Rybakina. Two weeks later, Martic lifted her first WTA singles trophy since 2019 thanks to a superb run in Lausanne that included victories over Belinda Bencic and Caroline Garcia. As her month wrapped with a quarterfinal showing in Warsaw, the former world No. 14 boarded a LOT Polish Airlines flight to Amsterdam with a fully-stocked bag sent underneath. She had no reason to weigh the decision given her smooth travel history.
“I don't know for what reason, I packed all my stuff in my bag,” Martic recalled to TENNIS.com via Zoom. “Normally, I divide it a little bit, but I thought, ‘I'll just take it all with me.’ It's such a short flight. One flight. Direct connection. There is no way that it can be lost.”
As Martic would soon find out, her good fortune was all but over. After departing the Netherlands empty-handed, Martic was assured her luggage would be transferred to Munich, where she flew next to train with coach Michael Geserer in nearby Regensburg. Her bag instead became an elite frequent flyer, making its way from Warsaw to Amsterdam to Split to Frankfurt back to Warsaw and Amsterdam, until it went off the grid.
When it came time to fly to the U.S. for the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Martic’s agent Anastasia Skavronskaia implored the Croatian and Geserer to put as many essentials in carry-ons as possible after her own ordeal trekking back across the pond. With her underneath bag AWOL for a week, along with gaining little traction from LOT representatives beyond “we’ll look into it” through ongoing efforts to track Martic’s suitcase down, Skavronskaia aimed to minimize the risk of a second nightmare scenario playing out for her client.
Despite the proactive mindset, it shortly happened again. Heading to New York, the journey Martic and her team took involved a connection in Washington, D.C. Custom-made racquets were strategically divided amongst the group’s carry-ons as a precaution, but as the layover got pushed due to thunderstorms, their United flight to LaGuardia was eventually canceled four hours in.
Accustomed to adapting, the group prepared to hit the road at 9 p.m. Except there was one lingering problem: At the airline’s baggage office, their request to have their checked items released was denied. Pleas by all were met with an explanation it would take several hours to locate and send down.
“If you want to spend the night at the airport to wait for your stuff, you can, but that's the best we can do. If you're lucky, you'll get them by 8:00 a.m.,” Skavronskaia recounted an agent advising. “He said it would be out on the first flight tomorrow.”
That never happened. A combination of equipment, clothing, supplements, recovery drinks, shoes, string and insoles had now disappeared on two occasions in less than a month. As flying alters tension, restringing upon arrival at a tournament is an immediate priority for competitors. This is resolvable on the fly with a sponsor like Wilson. The same can’t be said for Martic’s insoles.
In December 2020, Martic arrived at a crossroads with a chronic ankle issue. Multiple consults aligned in surgery being the only way to go, until a tailored shoe insert emerged as a more compelling solution for the structure of her feet.
“if I don't play in these insoles, I cannot perform well because the pain comes back. There’s no way around it, basically, for me,” she says.
On her first day back in the Big Apple, Martic was forced to hit without the orthotics when she and Jabeur traded groundstrokes. By the evening, there was still no word from United about delivering her luggage from Washington, D.C. The following day, Martic went about her business with Iga Swiatek. This was more than an opportunity to train with the world No. 1; it was a chance to be around compassionate company, as the Pole’s team had been an unexpected helping hand behind the scenes.
When Martic posted about her experience on Facebook, Daria Abramowicz spotted the update and soon offered to work with Swiatek on pooling their connections. Though July’s misplaced bag is yet to be recovered, Swiatek’s squad has continued to serve up ideas and devote time to resolving the problem.
“We didn't reach out. She just genuinely was interested and willing to help. So that was really such a nice gesture and they really tried hard to find this bag,” says Martic. “I thanked Daria and Iga when we practiced. It's like the team is so invested. We're trying this and we're trying that. To have people like that on tour is really nice to be around.”
By then, Skavronskaia had spoken with United representatives inquiring about the status of everyone’s suitcases. She was twice informed their bags were set for the next delivery window from LaGuardia, but without an official guarantee or specific details assuring her they were en route, concerns only mounted.
Finished on site, Martic and her physio, Asier Sanchiz Belamendia, decided to take matters into their own hands. Arriving at the Queens-based airport, they were met by chaos. To their dismay, neglected luggage was sprawled across baggage claim. As their eyes darted around the scene, Martic spotted her red Wilson bag. Minutes later, all five of her team’s pieces were in hand as if this was standardized operating procedure.
“No one cared to deliver, to bring them to the hotel. We just walked in, recognized our bags and it's okay without anyone asking questions,” says Martic. “It’s crazy.”
In two of the past three years at the US Open, Martic advanced to the round of 16. In her opener, she meets Varvara Gracheva, whom she already has a win over at the USTA Billie Jean King National Center. While admitting she doesn’t feel the greatest heading into this week, Martic hopes to resume building off the success that preceded all her travel woes.
“What really was important for me was to kind of grow from one match to another. I think I improved in that part a lot,” she says. “Even if I don't play great, I know I can get through it. And that's big for me going into the last Grand Slam of the season.”
With the insoles back in her possession, here’s to Martic packing the case of hard luck away.