A Fan-Tastic Week for Teenager Fanny Stollar
By: Joel Drucker
Beginning Wednesday morning at 10 a.m., Fanny Stollar of Hungary applied a longstanding but often forgotten tennis principle: The ball doesn’t know how old you are.
There was Stollar, an 18-year-old qualifier, on Court 3 at the Volvo Car Open, playing a second round match against fourth-seeded Elena Vesnina, a Russian who was red-hot off the heels of recently winning the biggest singles title of her career in Indian Wells.
The first set lasted more than an hour. As Stollar absorbed Vesnina’s forceful groundstrokes and persistent grunts, she remained cucumber-cool.
At 7-all in a tense tiebreaker, Vesnina aimed her serve wide to Stollar’s forehand. The ball hung just short and high enough for Stollar to follow another strategic concept: the ball doesn’t know what the score is. Cracking an untouchable return, Stollar grabbed the balls to serve at 8-7 – at which point, with the calmness of someone at a solo practice session on a quiet Sunday morning, Stollar smacked an ace into the corner.
The second set also went the distance, but this time Stollar took it more comfortably, dropping just three points in the tiebreak to earn the biggest win of her career – and only the third WTA main draw win of her young career. (Her first round win here came over another qualifier, American Asia Muhammad).
“I was just really focused on every single point,” Stollar told reporters after the upset. “I couldn’t give any easy shots because (it was) really tough point by point.”
Against Vesnina, Stollar’s serve had been superb. She’d struck 13 aces, just one double-fault and saved 15 of 19 break points.
“I just feel really calm and confident right now,” she added. “So I don’t have any pressure on me at all. I’m just having fun and playing.”
But of course, no 18-year- old that good comes out of nowhere. Stollar has had an arduous last half-decade. At 13, she trained in California. Then it was off to the Netherlands, followed by a journey back across the Atlantic to the IMG Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton, Florida, for two years. Most recently, she has moved across the Sunshine State to Boca Raton, another tennis training hub.
Growing up in Hungary, Stollar’s hero was Serena Williams.
“It’s just amazing like the amount of work she puts into everything, how she fights,” said Stollar.
At Wimbledon in 2015, paired with compatriot Dalma Galfi, Stollar won the Wimbledon junior doubles event. Though in the same locker room as her idol Serena, she dared not approach her.
But if Stollar continues to play as well as she did versus Vesnina, there might in due time come a moment for her to start facing the likes of Serena and other top WTA stars.
“Everything is just getting together,” said Stollar.
Next up for Stollar: 66th-ranked Jelena Ostapenko for a spot in the quarterfinals.
For all of Charleston’s charms, though, Stollar has barely sampled The Holy City. There was - at one point - a brief trip downtown.
Said Stollar, “(It) reminds me of Europe a little bit. So I really didn’t have time to do much since Friday I’m here (and) every day I had a match. Monday I had to wait the whole day, moved to my match to Tuesday, so I didn’t really get much time off.”
For this busy schedule, though, Stollar is no doubt quite happy.