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This Ginger Is Ailing After Big 1994 Season

July 13, 1995|BOB WOLF | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SAN DIEGO — The tennis season hasn't been kind to Ginger Helgeson Nielsen.

A 28-year-old Pepperdine alumna from Alpine, Calif., she believed her career had taken off in 1994 when she beat Conchita Martinez in the U.S. Open after Martinez had won the Wimbledon championship.

But it didn't work out that way. After having some success in her first seven tournaments of the year, including a second-place finish in Auckland, New Zealand, Helgeson Nielsen's right wrist was injured and she hasn't played since.

"It happened April 3, and they diagnosed it as tendinitis," Helgeson Nielsen said. "I avoided cortisone and chose to take the slow route to recovery, but I never dreamed I would be out this long."

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday July 14, 1995 Home Edition Sports Part C Page 10 Sports Desk 1 inches; 31 words Type of Material: Correction
Tennis--A story in Thursday's editions erroneously reported that Ginger Helgeson Nielsen had yet to win a tournament as a pro. She won last year in Auckland, New Zealand. Also, her name was misspelled in a photo caption.

When the injury struck, she was playing Mercedes Paz in the Bausch & Lomb tournament in Amelia Island, Fla.

"I was up one set and was leading, 4-3, in the second when I suffered tear-producing pain," Helgeson Nielsen said. "I kept going and managed to win the match, but I had to default my next match."

More than three months later, she has yet to swing a tennis racket. She still wears a brace on her injured wrist and is limited to sprinting and footwork in daily workouts under the direction of her coach, John Nelson, who is also the men's tennis coach at San Diego State.

As slow as her progress has been, though, Helgeson Nielsen expects to return to tournament play in time for the U.S. Open, which begins Aug. 28.

"I might even make it back for the Canadian Open [beginning Aug. 14]," she said. "I'm going to start hitting July 26."

Of her 1994 success, Helgeson Nielsen said, "It was a great year for me. I earned $220,000 and moved up in the world rankings [from 53rd to 30th, now to 44th]."

Of her victory over Martinez, she said, "I had lost to Conchita in a great match in the Toshiba tournament, and I had never beaten her. But I took a lot of confidence away from that match, and I just refused to lose to her one more time."

Topping off her best season as a pro, the St. Cloud, Minn., native married San Diego businessman Todd Nielsen last September.

While her upset of Martinez is the obvious highlight of her nine seasons on the WTA Tour, Helgeson Nielsen can also look back on victories over Helena Sukova, Mary Jo and Gigi Fernandez, Anke Huber, Lori McNeil, Sabine Applemans, Sabine Hack and Natalie Zvereva. She lost a tough match to Gigi Fernandez in the 1994 U.S. Open after defeating Martinez.

In high school in Edina, Minn., Helgeson Nielsen was a three-time Minnesota state singles champion. In college at Pepperdine, she was a three-time All-American and a three-time West Coast Athletic Conference singles champion.

As a touring pro, Helgeson Nielsen is still looking for her first tournament victory, yet she radiates confidence.

"My conditioning program has really helped me get ready," she said.

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