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A Case of Tu Little, Tu Late

Meilen Tu’s loss to Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia on Wednesday in the second round of the Acura Classic at La Costa Resort and Spa was a microcosm of her season so far.

The match was close, it involved a comeback, and Tu came up short, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (3) to a bigger, stronger, younger player who is on the rise -- the way she once was.

“There are ups and downs in any career,” Tu said. “I’m in a little bit of a downswing right now, but life’s not perfect and you can’t always have the sun shining on you.”

The No. 1-ranked junior player in the world after she upset Martina Hingis for the U.S. Open junior championship as a 16-year-old in 1994, Tu had high hopes of continuing her success as a pro.

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Instead, the 1995 graduate of Granada Hills High has struggled to maintain health and consistency, and her attempts to rebound from illnesses and injuries continue.

Tu, 25, who lives in Tampa, Fla., had tonsillitis in 2002, playing with the infection until she finally had her tonsils removed after the season. After the Australian Open in January, she was sidelined for nearly two months because of a torn abdominal muscle.

Tu’s ranking has plummeted since she reached No. 36 in June 2001. Since then, she has dropped off, to No. 45 at the end of 2001, No. 73 last year, to 130 currently. Her record this year is 13-17.

“I’ve accepted that this is where I’m at right now, and that it’s going to take a lot of work to rebuild,” she said.

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Tu was inserted into the draw for the Acura when Serena Williams withdrew.

-- Lauren Peterson


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