By Matt Cronin, Special to EmiratesUSOpenSeries.com
CARLSBAD, CA - At least a few times a year, players come out of the woodwork, but it is rare for a player to spring out in singles and then quickly climb back into the comfort of the doubles world, but that’s what Chinese Taipei’s Yung-Jan Chan did after she cracked the top 50 at the age of 17 in 2007.
This week, it’s hard to discern exactly why, as she qualified for the Mercury Insurance Open and on Friday, reached the semifinals when she fought off two match points and survived former No. 1 1 Jelena Jankovic 6-7(4), 7-6(8) 7-5 in three hours and 13 minutes.
"It feels very special for me because she was former No. 1," the 22-year-old aggressive baseliner said. "Also I had the surgery the end of last year, and this is my best results since the surgery. I think it could be one of the best match in my career."
Chan seems to have the personality of singles player: funny, light hearted, experimental, and somewhat bold.
She is open to new ideas and decided that on tour, she’s rather have an Americanized first name. So a fellow tennis player form Taiwan gave her three to choose from and she selected the one that had the sweetest ring to her ears.
"He lives in United States for a very long time, so I ask him if you have any good names which could fit like my personality," she recalled. He gave me three. Then he tell me what it means, and finally I choose Latisha. It's a black name. I said, ‘What's that mean? ‘ Because I like when you pronounce. He says, ‘It means a black girl who really loves sports.’ I said, Yeah, I'm going to take that."
According to the web site "meaninignofnames.com" Latisha actually means "great joy," Which really does fit Chan’s personality when she’s winning matches.
Her selection of the name Latisha not only gave her a thrill, but also interested a certain 14-time Grand Slam champion.
"I was playing doubles final in Stanford against Williams sisters, and Serena came after me," Chan said. "She was like, ‘Excuse me, excuse me.’ I was like, Is that Serena? She said, ‘Is that your name Latisha? I was like, ‘Yeah.’ She was like, ‘Do you know that it's a black name? ‘ I said, ‘Yeah.’ She said, ‘Oh, that's cool.’ I said, ‘I know.’ It was really fun.’"
Chan got a substantial scare last December while at home when she woke up in the morning in severe pain and had to be brought to the emergency room. "In 15 minutes my hair are wet and I can't feel my finger and my toes," she said. "The doctor check that there is like seven-centimeter cyst inside. The cyst twist and the blood like not going through very well. I mean, I figure if I'm having a baby it's not going to the pain is not going to be more than that. I can either wait or I can take surgery. But doctor said if I wait, if it happen in the tournament, you will panic for sure. So, let's have a surgery."
Chan was forced to take three months off and couldn’t return until Miami. She was out of shape so it took her a while to find her rhythm. But she qualified for Roland Garros and with her 18 year old sister Hao-Ching Chan , whom she has begin to play doubles with they reached the fourth round in Paris and the semifinals of Stanford last week.
Because of that, "Latisha" Chan had to play and win two qualifying singles match in Carlsbad on Sunday. She then bested seventh seed Yanina Wickmayer, British teen Heather Watson and then the third seed Jankovic.
"She has a good backhand. She has good volleys," Jankovic said. Her serve was attackable, but my return was not the way I would like it, especially of the forehand side. She doesn't have maybe from my opinion something that she does extraordinary, but she's solid. Nowadays, if you can have like a lot of good shots in your game, I think it's good."
Chan was a phenomenal young player, winning 16 ITF tournaments at different levels as a teenager.and even winning two titles at the tender age of 14. She has yet to win a tour level title in singles, but she won nine in doubles, including in 2008 when she won in Rome and Los Angeles with Chia-Jung Chuang.
But it was in 2007 when she and Chuang shocked the world, as they were given wild card into the Australian Open and reached the final, knocking off the third seeds of Yan Zi and Zheng Jie before losing in three sets to second seeds Cara Black and Liezel Huber. They won Bangalore, reached the finals of Indian Wells, won Birmingham and came into the US Open ranked No .10, where they knocked off three seeded teams before the lost to Dinara Safina and Nathalie Dechy in the final.
Chan says part of the reason for her sporadic play in singles is due to injury and illness, but her doubles game rarely suffered as much as her singles and at times she decided to prioritize it. Now she seems to be willing to give it another go and if she performs the way she has this week, top 50 will be in the rear view mirror very soon.
"I will be 23 soon, and I don't have too much time to waste," she said. "So I guess I need to focus on one thing first a little bit more. This tournament really show me that I still can play, I still can improve, so it really helps me a lot. I think singles I'll put a little bit more than half. I was like 50/50, and now I want to go like 60/40, 70/30, something like that. Comeback is always difficult, especially mentally. Now I feel like I'm ready to go."