COLLEGE PARK, MD -- Long gone are the days of 13-year-old Jennifer Capriati making the semifinals of the 1990 French Open, or 16-year-old Martina Hingis winning three grand slams in 1997.
29-year-old Li Na's victory over 30-year-old Francesca Schiavone in the final of the French Open earlier this year made it clear just how much greyer the landscape of the WTA is now. Hingis, long past her teen phenom days, is still younger than Schiavone.
But it's not just at the very top of the game that the elder stateswomen are dominating.
Petra Rampre, a veteran Slovenian journeywoman who trains in Port St. Lucie, Florida, is proof of that.
"I'm 31, but I think I'm playing the best that I've ever played," Rampre said Saturday after winning her second round qualifying match at the Citi Open in College Park, MD on Sunday.
And Rampre's results have backed it up. With her ranking floundering well outside the top 350 as recently as April, Rampre has gotten a second wind that has nearly halved her ranking. Winning challenger titles in Raleigh and Boston, Rampre is now on the cusp of the top 200.
Rampre dropped the first four games of her final qualifying match Monday, but reeled off 12 of the next 13 to defeat Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski 6-4, 6-1, and book a spot in the main draw of a WTA level tournament for the first time in 11 years, since July of 2000, when she made it to the second round of the long-defunct clay court tournament in Klagenfurt. This is only her third WTA main draw in her 15 years as a professional.
Rampre, for one, buys that there is something to this current tipping of the scales toward the older generation.
"There must be," Rampre said. "I don't really feel slower. Recovery is a little worse, I can't hit six or seven hours a day anymore. I wear down. But I feel really good at 31."
Rampre developed alopecia universalis four years ago, and lost all of her hair within three weeks. Rampre hasn't hidden her condition with wigs, instead relying on an impressive arsenal of bandanas that she matches to her playing outfits.
Because of her stellar play this summer, Rampre has earned a spot in the qualifying draw of the 2011 US Open, the first time she has been able to compete in the qualifying for a Grand Slam in over ten years (Wimbledon 2001).
"I would really, really love to qualify there," Rampre said. "To win a round--that would be awesome."
"For a couple of years, I couldn't move from like No. 380. And then in ten weeks I moved from 380 to almost No. 200. So anything is possible."
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