Bernarda Pera keeps her momentum going with victory over Katie Volynets at Thoreau Open in Concord

Here in the west end of Henry David Thoreau’s hometown, Pera advanced to the semifinals with a 6-3, 6-1 dismissal of 20-year-old Californian Katie Volynets. Pera, often cracking a searing two-handed backhand, took a 4-0 lead in the first set in less than 15 minutes. The two split breaks to open the second, then Pera ran the table hard to bring home the win in 1:14.

“I’m really happy with the way I’m playing at the moment,” said Pera, who came here straight after winning Germany. “I feel really good on the court, and hopefully I can transfer that pace to the US Open later.”

Most women here view the Thoreau Open as a tune-up for Flushing, and some, including Pera, will play in another tournament or two before New York. Pera is one of those steps in Cincinnati and/or Cleveland before entering her sixth US Open, where she never advanced further than her third-round banter in 2019.

Since turning professional in 2014, Pera has played in all four Grand Slam events, for a total of 19 tournaments, and is yet to reach week two. Now 27, she feels she could be on her way to the knockout stages on the biggest stages in the game.

“I just wasn’t playing well, I mean, I wasn’t playing as well as I can play,” Pera said, wondering why she hasn’t broken through in Slam events yet. “Now I feel like I’m playing my best tennis and now I feel like I can win Grand Slam matches.”

Pera wasn’t perfect in her win over Volynets, but she was strong and assured with her shots, often peppering the deep corners with that crackling backhand. The key to entering week two of a Slam, of course, is consistency, delivering winners as the pressure mounts and the competition gets tougher.

She will face Katrina Scott in the semi-finals, while China’s Qiang Wang, who knocked out fourth seed Magdalena Frech 6-2, 6-4, in the first quarter-final of the day, will face Coco Vandeweghe, native from New York. Ranked No. 192, Vandeweghe held off No. 1 seed Clara Tauson of Denmark 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 in one of three afternoon sets.

Pera, the No. 2 seed, faces a slightly taller Scott (6ft), an 18-year-old Californian who had to go three sets to knock out Chicago’s Taylor Townsend, 6-3, 3-6, 6 -4, in the semi-finals.

The finals, in singles and doubles, will take place on Sunday.

Pera tore his right quadriceps earlier this year and was sidelined for most of March and April while he healed. While she slept, her world ranking slipped, leading her to play more tournaments this summer to climb the rankings.

Her two July victories in Europe were on clay, the surface she learned the game on as a child, while chasing her sister Andrea, who gave up the game in her twenties. Now married and mother of a little girl, Andrea still lives in Croatia and teaches tennis.

Bernarda, who moved with her mom and dad to New Jersey nearly 10 years ago to perfect her game, doesn’t phone her older sister for gambling advice.

“Oh, no,” Pera noted. “It’s quite the opposite now – I’m the one tipping him.”

For the past few years, Pera has been dating Kristijan Krajina, a 6-foot-10 basketball center also from Croatia. A former star at St. Mary’s University (Md.), Krajina played last season in Brussels, where Pera spent his brief offseason last November. According to Pera, Krajina has yet to determine where he will play next season… Moments before the start of the second set, a gust of wind tossed the large umbrella, pole included, from Pera’s sideline and he stolen from the seats in the stands of the grandstand. A few patrons dodged the flying umbrella and its long wooden pole.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at [email protected]

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