Christina McHale is picking up in Melbourne right where she left off in the 2011 season.
The 19-year-old McHale has reached the third round at a Grand Slam for the second consecutive time. She also reached the third round at last year’s U.S. Open.
Ranked No. 42 in the world, McHale upset 24th-seed Lucie Safarova in the first round, breaking her higher ranked opponent three times to win in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4. McHale faced a much stiffer challenge in the second round, knocking off New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic, 3-6, 7-6 , 6-3, in a bout that lasted 2 hours, 47 minutes.
McHale, the second ranked American woman behind only Serena Williams, now gets to face former world No. 1 and 13th– seed Jelena Jankovic. The teen lost badly to Serbia’s No. 1 in their only matchup at last year’s Family Circle Cup quarterfinal match, 6-2, 6-0.
McHale, who graduated from high school in 2010 and played in her first full WTA Tour season last year, has the game and mental strength to continue her rise in the rankings. And although she leads the contingent of young Americans, McHale still manages to fly under radars.
The 2012 Australian Open is a great chance for McHale to reach career heights and to introduce herself as the next American player to watch out for. With a win over Jankovic, she could potentially meet world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, a player she beat in Cincinnati last year.
The teen appears to thrive on the big stage and a deep run at a Grand Slam is likely on the horizon. Soon the wins for the unassuming, yet confident McHale won’t be considered upsets.