By Kelyn Soong
What do Serena Williams and Varvara Lepchenko have in common? Both players are into the third round at the 2012 Mutua Madrid Open and are the only American women left in the tournament.
While the former has a much higher profile, Lepchenko, an Uzbek-born American, scored the bigger win with a first round upset over 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone – the best win of her career. She followed up the victory by beating former world No. 11 Shahar Peer in the second round and will take on 30th seed Anabel Medina Garrigues next.
Currently ranked No. 77 in the world, Lepchenko reached a career high No. 73 just last month. The 25-year-old is now the fifth ranked American, behind only Williams (9), older sister Venus (72), and youngsters Christina McHale (36) and Vania King (57).
Born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Lepchenko has lived in the United States since 2001 – the same year she turned pro. She switched nationalities from UZB to USA in 2007 and became a U.S. citizen last September. She currently resides in Allentown, PA.
Lepchenko has spent the past six years bouncing in and out of the top 100 – her highest year-end finish was at world No. 79 in 2010. Her best Grand Slam result has been reaching the second round, which she accomplished at the 2006 U.S. Open, 2010 Wimbledon, and 2010 and 2011 French Open.
But the success in Madrid may signal a breakout year for Lepchenko. Throughout the season she has battled through the qualifying rounds. In addition to Madrid, Lepchenko successfully qualified for the main draw in Melbourne, Paris, Doha, Indian Wells, and Madrid.
Even after more than a decade on the professional tour, it appears that Lepchenko’s best is yet to come.