Elise Mertens today captured both singles and doubles champion’s trophies at the Samsung Open in Lugano, Switzerland, so I feel it’s a perfect moment to feature the Belgian in my Little Tennis Stars series.
Owing to her Hobart title defense in January and the Australian Open semifinals, the 22-year-old Mertens is enjoying a career-high ranking of No.20. Today’s Lugano triumph, her third WTA career title and first on clay, is about to push her even further, to No.17.
You know I like to share childhood pics of tennis players, so here’s little Elise with her older sister Lauren, who is an airline pilot with KLM! Thanks to her sis, Elise started playing tennis when she was four years old and her first tennis memory is watching Kim Clijsters play live. Dreams do come true, as Elise now trains at the Kim Clijsters Academy and the Belgian tennis legend is one of her biggest supporters.
“She seems very strong mentally, moves well and doesn’t have any weaknesses,” Martina Navratilova commented on Elise during the 2018 Australian Open. “Kim didn’t have any weaknesses, did she? (Clijsters) knows how to play the game and I’m sure she’s given Elise some good pointers. That always helps to get a champion’s viewpoint.”
Boyfriend and coach Robbe Ceyssens is also an important person behind Elise’s success, as the WTA star pointed out many times.
Elise’s breakthrough season was 2017, when she finished as Belgian No.1 after rising from No.120 to No.35. That year she won her first singles title at Hobart and posted her first Top 10 win by defeating No.10 Dominika Cibulkova in the first round of Beijing.
Elise’s rise has just started! Expect to see a lot of this Belgian on the WTA courts in the coming years. I also hope we’ll have more childhood pics to add to our archives.