Practically since starting Women's Tennis Blog I've been in touch with Miodrag Bozovic from Croatia, organizer of Smrikva Bowl, a tournament for children under 10. While it's not possible to predict future tennis stars from children at such a young age, as a lot depends on their determination and later circumstances in life, some of Miodrag's contestants are making a name for themselves in the big tennis world and one of them is Donna Vekic, a 16-year-0ld from Osijek, currently based in London, who reached the 2012 Tashkent Open final in September in her first main draw appearance and is currently ranked No.108 (no girl born in 1996 or 1995 is ranked higher than her, while there's only one born in 1994).
At the Tashkent Open, Donna came through qualifying in her third try on the WTA Tour and in the main draw she beat three Top 100 players in three days (Magdalena Rybarikova, Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino and Bojana Jovanovski), all three of whom had won titles in 2012, eventually becoming the youngest player to reach a WTA final since Tamira Paszek six years ago and finishing as the runner-up to Irina-Camelia Begu.
Following the tournament, Vekic rose from No.183 to No.121 on the WTA rankings, while now she's progressed further, after a $100,000 ITF event in Suzhou where she reached the semifinal in which she lost to top seed and eventual champion Hsieh Su-Wei. Vekic's success after Tashkent was also manifested in her contract with Nike and her first photoshoot.
The Smrikva Bowl founder remembers Donna as a cheerful and sweet child with radiant smile and a Ledo ice-cream T-shirt, always accompanied by her family, father Igor, mother Brankica and younger brother Bruno. Donna played the Smrikva Bowl three times, in 2003, 2004 and 2005 (the tournament's eighth, ninth and tenth enditions) and is remembered as one of the youngest Smrikva Bowl entrants.
Donna was born to a sporting family. Before starting playing tennis at the age of six, Donna trained gymnastics for a few years. This summer she stopped playing juniors, after losing the junior quarterfinals in Wimbledon, and shifted her focus on the pros. Donna considers forehand and serve her best shots, but also backhand. Mental strength is also one of her assets.
The young Croat, coached by David Felgate, is the youngest player in the Top 500, and one of only three players in the Top 500 born in 1996. Currently, she's the second-ranked WTA player from her country, after Petra Martic. Remember this face!