Seventeen-year-old Zeel Desai is within sight of her second Grand Slam quarterfinal in the girls singles division, as she advanced from her second round match at Wimbledon. After winning her opening match against Japan's Naho Sato, she was trailing 5-7, 1-0 when her opponent Marta Paigina of Russia retired.
Desai had earlier reached the quarterfinal in the girls singles division of the Australian Open in similar circumstances. She had won her opening two matches before running into Olga Danilovic of Serbia. Danilovic was leading 5-3, when she too pulled out of the match.
Seeded 15th in the tournament, the Ahmedabad-based Desai now faces top seed Kayla Day of the USA in the pre-quarterfinal match at Wimbledon. Day, who won the US Open girls title in 2016, is currently ranked 124 in the women's WTA rankings. Desai, who is ranked 18th in the world as a junior, is currently ranked 712 in the WTA rankings.
Desai is only playing her fourth junior Grand Slam. She made her debut at the junior Wimbledon last year where she lost in the first round of qualifying. She has subsequently played in the Australian Open (quarterfinal) and French Open (1st round). Desai, though, plans to play the US Open too this year, before focusing entirely on the senior tour.
Now standing 5 feet 11 inches, Desai started playing as a six-year-old. Having already won singles titles in the U-14, U-16 and U-18 levels, one of Desai's first targets is the Senior National title in October this year. Last year, she claimed the ITF Junior Grade 2 event in Tin Hau, Hong Kong - her 11th title win on the junior tour. With it, she eclipsed the previous Indian record of 10, held by her idol Sania Mirza.
"She is a determined girl, mentally very strong. However, her serve is still a work in progress and to compete with the bigger European girls we have to improve her movement. Strength, conditioning and nutrition are key," says her coach Todd Clark