It's been a while, but CoCo Vandeweghe is injury-free and starting to enjoy tennis once more, says her coach Craig Kardon. Now, comes the hard part: winning matches.
The two-time Grand Slam semifinalist reached a Top 10 ranking in 2018 before experiencing a foot injury that kept her off the tour for nearly 10 months. Upon returning, she then tested positive for coronavirus and hurt her finger. Since coming back, Vandeweghe had had some runs at lower-level competitions but has yet to get a victory on the WTA Tour.
"She's happy she's playing, and training hard. It's just a matter of putting a couple of wins together and then I think she can catch some momentum," Kardon told TENNIS.com.
"I’m very confident that she can become as good as she wants to be. But it takes patience and confidence. And she was kind of tired in 2018, really, being Top 10, having those obligations to play extra tournaments and getting injured. She actually wasn't that happy, personally. She obviously was having great success, but she wasn't having fun. Now she's finding it fun, but it's going to take a while where she's putting together successive matches."
Vandeweghe's big-hitting, attacking play still has a lot of potential, he adds.
"She's very talented—one of the best ball strikers I've ever worked with, and I've worked with quite a few top players," said Kardon, who has coached others such as Martina Navratilova, Lindsay Davenport and Ana Ivanovic.
"She's got a skill level that's amazing. Her Achilles's [heel] is really staying interested and focused when she's in control. Sometimes she isn't focused when she's already established she's better. It's just understanding her game, shot selection, keep paying attention."
Photo: Chris Smith
Ranked No. 226, Vandeweghe plans to play Roland Garros qualifying and then some grass events, using a special ranking for Wimbledon. Though she's had a slow climb back and is now a veteran at 29, Kardon notes that it isn't unusual for players to keep on improving even at this point in their careers.
"I think players these days are playing older, the money's too good," he said. "I think players that have been on the tour for a while, they have some success if they're motivated."
However, conditions on tour are currently quite different, with no fans at most events and restrictions on players. It's hampered some competitors while others have benefited from a positive effect.
"I just think players react a lot differently—the way you handle being in a bubble, being quarantined, practicing, all these things have changed the way players prepare. At the tournaments, you're in a bubble or quarantine. You're not able to experience the city or have dinner, leave the hotel, the travel is different, the tournament is different," he said.
"Honestly, some players, I think it's helped them [but] some players need the crowd. CoCo's one of the players that feeds off the crowd. It's been hard for her, dealing with the atmosphere with no fans. But some of the other players, particularly Jen Brady, Shelby Rogers, Jessie Pegula, they've really blossomed and taken advantage of the opportunity."
Vandeweghe's last tour-level win came on July 29, 2019 in San Jose, when she defeated then No. 91-ranked Marie Bouzkova.