From Wolverine to Breakout Star Emina Bektas' Unlikely Journey into the Top 100

From Wolverine to Breakout Star – In a year that captivated those following tennis betting picks and young American tennis talents alike, 30-year-old Emina Bektas emerged as one of the most surprising and noteworthy breakthrough stories. After dedicating years to honing her skills in college tennis and minor pro events, Bektas orchestrated a remarkable 2023 campaign, defying odds and expectations. This performance not only caught the attention of tennis enthusiasts but also proved to be a significant point of interest for those invested in tennis betting picks, as she cracked the Top 100 for the first time.

From Wolverine to Breakout Star: A Long Road Through College

After moving to the U.S. as a girl, Bektas quickly took up tennis. She eventually landed at the esteemed tennis academy run by legend John Newcombe before opting to play collegiately at the University of Michigan. Bektas thrived as a Wolverine, becoming the school’s all-time wins leader, playing No. 1 singles all four years, and earning All-American honors.

“Playing professional tennis was always a goal of mine, but seeing the campus, going to the football games, just the whole team atmosphere really got me,” Bektas told “I realized I wanted to be a part of that. Also, I was absolutely nowhere near ready to play professional tennis straight from high school.”

The college environment allowed Bektas to develop her game at a comfortable pace while soaking up the team camaraderie she loved. Her coaches, Ronni Bernstein and Teryn Ashley-Fitch, instilled a resilient mindset in Bektas. “One big lesson on the court we were always taught was just staying out on court,” Bektas explained. “So many dual matches could turn at the drop of a hat.”

Breaking Through As a Veteran

After wrapping up her standout college career in 2015, Bektas spent years scratching and clawing in minor pro events, unable to break through to the highest echelons of the sport. Her year-end ranking hovered between No. 150-400 as she approached her 30s, often a make-or-break age for pros. 

Rather than fade, Bektas put together by far her best season in 2023. She reached her first WTA quarterfinal in June at s’-Hertogenbosch then went one better by advancing to the Seoul semifinals in September. The results gave Bektas’ confidence a massive boost.

“It showed me how much I had improved from where I was at the start of the year,” she said. “I got through some really tough and long and challenging matches.”

The American’s breakthrough was capped in November when she captured the WTA 125 title in Tampico, Mexico. Battling world No. 58 Anna Kalinskaya in the final, Bektas edged out a tight three-setter 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(3). The tournament win vaulted her into the Top 100 for the first time in her long career.

“Sometimes winning a title or reaching a goal just feels like a relief because you are immediately off to the next event and you don’t have much time to process or sit in those moments,” Bektas said. “But this one I was really able to soak in, and that’s a feeling that won’t ever leave.”

What’s Behind the Sudden Success?  

So what changed for Bektas in 2023 after years of middling results? She points to finally finding consistency in her training and lifestyle choices. 

“Whether that’s with the mental aspect and understanding myself and my tennis better, or just the trust, support, and communication I had with the team around me,” Bektas explained. “Consistency in training. Sticking to a plan. Listening to the guidance of those around me. Better scheduling.”

All the years grinding on the tour and working her way through college tennis also prepared the 30-year-old to take advantage when opportunities arrived. “I think each phase served its different purpose,” said Bektas. “Growing up, it’s first the technique, then I played tons and tons of matches and the training gets tougher at the academy level. And then finally in college it’s the combination of the first two, plus just the growth you do as a person.”

What’s Next for the Late-Blooming Star?

For the first time in her career, Bektas heads into 2024 not needing to qualify for Grand Slam main draws. She’ll make her Australian Open debut in January.  

Yet despite her newfound success, Bektas remains grounded: “I’m not a big ‘have a massive goal to achieve’ person. I just want to continue to build off last year. I want to continue to be consistent. But most importantly, I just want to continue to have fun on court.”

After such a long road, enjoying herself is the perfect perspective for Emina Bektas to adopt. Whether more epic wins follow or not, her 2023 shock rise into the elite ranks of women’s tennis will go down as one of the year’s best stories, much like the unexpected successes that sometimes light up Canadian betting sites.