When you sit and chat with 21-year-old Rebecca Marino, she reminds you of the average young woman in your neighbourhood. Soft-spoken, a great smile, and doesn't overdress or pile on the makeup. She has the girl next door persona. Of course, it's hard to ignore the fact she is six-feet tall with a wingspan that could reach the sidelines of a tennis court.
Despite a relatively quiet demeanour, Marino has managed to build quite a fan base around the world because of her tennis talent, online presence and love of music. She created a segment on her Twitter account called "2unesTuesday" where her fans send different song options to fill her iPod once a week.
"The idea came about because a few people had been asking what sort of music I liked," Marino explained. "I also really enjoy my music, so I figured I would start #2unesTuesday on Twitter. I had fans help me come up with the name, too. It's just a fun way for people to get to know me and interact with me a bit more."
She walks the red carpets alongside Maria Sharapova and has a serve that Venus Williams compared to her own. I'm quite certain people know Marino.
As the Vancouver native enters her fourth full season as a pro on the WTA Tour, many would see huge pressure to take advantage of the big opportunities that lie ahead in 2012. Not this girl. And that just might be the right attitude for Marino to take the next step.
Currently ranked No. 63 on the WTA Tour, Marino has a lot to play for over the next few months. The first big test will be the Australian Open where she faces Hungarian Greta Arn in the first round, and if successful, could meet Slovak sweetheart Dominika Cibulkova in the second stage. Marino reached the second round in Melbourne last year where she dropped a heart-breaking three setter to French Open champion Francesca Schiavone. The proud Canadian has grown up a lot since that defeat and seems ready for another go at it.
"Coming back to Melbourne is a great feeling," said Marino on Friday from Australia. "This past year has made me feel like I know a lot more of the players, and that I truly belong at this level. With this in mind I have a positive and confident outlook on the upcoming tournaments, including the Australian Open."
Marino's internal fire
Positive, mature and confident - attributes that separate girls who come-and-go out of the Top 100, and those that are permanent fixtures. Marino is one that never gets overly excited about a win, but certainly doesn't like to lose. Whether it's on the world tennis stage or playing doubles with her father, Joe, back home, Marino has an internal fire.
She believes that hard work and the right attitude always wins. It must be in her genes. For three generations, Joe Marino and his family have been renovating and building homes. He is a well-respected member of the Greater Vancouver community and earned everything he has - a lesson that has been passed on to his little girl.
Despite a very small window to relax in an abbreviated off-season, Marino recovered quickly and got right back to work.
"The off-season was great," she said. "I switched coaches right at the start of the off-season, so I had to transition. We worked on every aspect of my game and we did a lot of work in the gym. I'm quite pleased with how everything went and I feel pretty strong heading into this Grand Slam."
Marino parted ways with former Canadian player Simon Larose late last season and has teamed up with Argentine Cristian Kordasz, who worked with Canuck Alexandra Wozniak when she had her Top 25 run a few years back. The first big test for Marino and Kordasz together will come this fortnight.
Last summer, Marino reached a career-high ranking of No. 38 on Tour. In order for her to get back into the Top 50 and beyond, she needs to continue to develop her footwork and improve her court movement, while maximizing that canon of a serve.
"I need more consistent results at tournaments throughout the year," she said. "Serve and return are also very important ways to start off points, so if I can constantly improve upon those areas that would be helpful."
The 2012 tennis season brings the Olympic Games, which Marino has stated is a goal for her to compete in, on top of her duties as the top Canadian on the national Fed Cup team. She needs to get into the Top 50 before the cutoff date in order to secure a spot in the London Games. There's a lot of tennis in the calendar before the summer but Marino would not have it any other way.
For now, she just puts on her music and goes about her business.
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