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Pellicano is Malta’s highest ranked player on WTA list

Helene Pellicano – positive results on the ITF circuit.

Helene Pellicano – positive results on the ITF circuit.

Helene Pellicano broke new ground in her tennis career when she became the highest-ranked Maltese player in the Women’s Tennis Association ranking list  published yesterday.

Following her excellent performances in recent tournaments on the ITF circuit, the 15-year-old was included in the WTA list for the first time and was ranked 914th in the world, which is the highest position ever attained by a Maltese player.

In fact, the only other two players who ever made the WTA list before were Kimberly Cassar, who was 1,034th in 2011, and Elaine Genovese. She is currently ranked 1,226th.

Pellicano’s decision to further her career at the Lozano Altur Tennis Academy, in Valencia, is starting to reap the desired dividends as she has shown a lot of promise and more spirited play in recent weeks.

The claycourt specialist made her first appearance in the ITF Circuit at the Getxo tournament.

After comfortably negotiating her first two qualifying round matches against Moldova’s Iana Tishchenko and Spain’s Dalila Said, Pellicano also eliminated Alicia Herrero Linana 6-4 7-5 but then lost to Olga Saez Larra, of Spain, 7-5 6-1.

Her efforts though were still enough to pick up her first ranking points.

A week later, she travelled to Portugal to compete in the Cantanhede Ladies Open and Pellicano  continued to bag more points with a strong run of results.

Helene is engaging in more baseline rallies but, more importantly, her tactical awareness during the game is steadily getting sharper

She beat home players Sara Lanca, 6-2 6-1, and Ines Murta,6-2 7-5, in the opening two rounds to reach the quarter-finals.

However, in the last eight, Pellicano was beaten by Ireland’s Sinead Lohan 6-4 6-2 who went on to win the competition.

Pellicano’s confidence continued to grow and that was mirrored in her performance at the Don Benito tournament in Spain where she played in the semi-finals.

She beat Herrero Linana (5-7 6-0 6-3) for the second time in a matter of a few weeks in the opening round before easing into the quarter-finals after Dutch player Lian Tran retired injured.

In the last eight she won a thrilling match against Olga Parres Azcoita, of Spain, 6-3 4-6 6-1.

Her run was ended in the semi-finals by eventual tournament winner Lisa Sabino, of Switzerland, 6-3 6-3.

Pablo Lozano, Pellicano’s coach, said he was impressed by the progress of his player in the last few months.

“Helene has shown lots of progress since she moved to our academy in Valencia last April,” he said.

“In the last few months we have worked a lot in trying to improve a lot of basics in her game and we are finally seeing some results.

“Helene is engaging in more rallies from the baseline but, more importantly, her tactical awareness during the game is steadily getting sharper.

“She works a lot to win points, choosing the right time when to use her powerful shots to put pressure on her opponent and that is another very important quality to have.

“There is still a lot to be done but the key for me is that Helene wants to work hard and improve.”

Lozano said that Pellicano has played a lot of tennis in recent weeks and he hopes that the encouraging results of late will strengthen her self-confidence and development.

“We gave Helene a lot of opportunities to play in the last few weeks and her response was very positive,” Lozano noted.

“She is slowly growing in confidence and her game knowledge is becoming wider and better. Since she came here we have worked on many aspects of her game. Now, she is serving much better than before and her shot-technique has also become better.

“Last week she played in the European U-16 Junior Championships for the first time and she did very well.

“Now after a short rest we will have more international tournaments coming up and hopefully Helene can continue to build on what has been achieved so far.”   

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