“Suddenly, I lost to girls I was beating easily before”
An interview by Eline van Suchtelen from the print edition of the Dutch daily Trouw (9 January 2015, page 22-23).
A special performance does not guarantee a successful career. Trouw is speaking with athletes who disappeared back into anonymity after a hopeful high. Today: Arantxa Rus. The tennis player (24) defeated world number 1 Kim Clijsters at Roland Garros in 2011. Now, she’s trying to regain her confidence.
“That day, I was very nervous. You’re playing against Kim Clijsters. You don’t think you’re going to beat her just like that. But in the weeks before, I had played well; so, I wasn’t afraid.
“There was quite a lot of family. My parents sat in the stands and my sister brought her friend. My trainers, Ralph Kok and Hugo Ekker, were also there.
“In the first set, I was really blown away. I did far too little. Eventually, I was a set and 5-2 down and Kim got match point. I decided to just enjoy the game—it’s not like you’re playing against someone like that every day.
“Then I got more free, so I was able to put pressure on her. Suddenly, the games were just going my way and it was a real match. When I won the second set, I believed I could win.
“I was so involved in the match that only afterwards did I realise something special had happened. Everything was very new to me, anyway, because I’d just played on center court for the first time. There were many more people than usual, but I didn’t notice. I don’t even remember what Kim said to me afterwards at the net. I was in a kind of zone.
“After the match, a lot was happening—a lot more than if I’d won somewhere on an outside court. There was a lot of attention from the media and my phone was overflowing with messages from friends. Everyone was surprised. I suddenly sat in a big room with all sorts of foreign journalists. I was very happy, only with me it doesn’t really show—only the people who are close to me can see it. I always stay calm, win or lose. Inside, it obviously feels different.
“When I lost in the third round, everything was back to normal. Of course, such a victory will give a boost. But, ultimately, it’s only one match. It makes no sense to think about it for a long time. I had to play qualifications for Rosmalen and Wimbledon. That’s when you remember what your place is. I just had to work hard every day.
“At that time, I generally played very well at the Grand Slams. I had a lot of confidence, felt good, was in a kind of flow. If you have that feeling, everything sort of goes by itself: you know how to play at the important moments, there are no doubts, and you win matches that you wouldn’t normally win. The year after, I even made the fourth round in Paris.
“By the end of that season, I noticed that I was very tired. I felt bad and was not fit. I had my blood checked and it turned out I had glandular fever. I wasn’t happy, but it was a sign that I had to take it easy. I think I just played a little too much.
“The following year, I started badly. Sometimes I played well, but because I had to play strong girls on the WTA tour, I still lost. That’s not good for your confidence.
“To change things I started to play challengers, one level below [the main tour]. There, I suddenly lost to girls I was beating easily before. That’s tough mentally. Actually, you have to keep looking forward—but you’re still thinking. It gets into your head, when you beat a player like Kim. You create high expectations for yourself. I trained hard, worked hard, but was thinking too much. It wasn’t going the way I wanted.
“At the end of that season, I took a two-week-break. If you work so hard and don’t see results, it’s difficult. I had to get out of there, spend time with family and friends. Sometimes it’s good to get away from the tennis.
“After a while, it went better—I finally started winning. Halfway through last year, my ranking was around 140. In October, it was going in the wrong direction. In the quarterfinals of a tournament in Mexico, my back got hurt after a drop shot. I had to take it easy again.
“I would love to come back to the top hundred. I try to stay positive and look forward to every day. Sometimes that’s difficult. You have to be very patient.”
Translated by Nicole Lucas. Feedback and criticism are welcome; please let us know what you think in the comments.
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