You grew up in a sports mad family – your father was a footballer and, as everyone knows, he’s your coach. Your brother Patrick was also an active football professional. You’re a big Liverpool fan. Why the Reds?
-My brother was a big Man U fan when I was little. I wanted absolutely to be different from him, so I chose Liverpool. Later I played an exhibition match in Liverpool and got the chance to go to the stadium and learn about the history of the club. When you go to Anfield Road and get goosebumps from “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, you have to become a Reds fan. Some Danes have played for the team over the years. My favourite player is of course Stevie Gerrard, and I proudly wear his jersey from his last home game. But I also like a couple of your German players like Bastian Schweinsteiger. I like saying the name – Schweinsteiger (laughs).
You don’t only follow football closely. You also ran the New York Marathon last year, and in a very good time of 3.27. Respect! But your preparation wasn’t ideal …
(laughs) That’s true. A couple of days before I was up until 4 AM at a Halloween party.I ran the Marathon because it had been on my bucket list for a long time. It was a crazy experience that I’ll never forget. Looking back at it, while it was definitely a tough test both physically and mentally, it was an amazing atmosphere. It’s a pretty amazing feeling with the crowds on the roadside shouting your name.I said right after it that I’d never do it again because I was finished. But I’ve slowly been changing my mind and maybe I’ll do it again. (laughs)
The Marathon wasn’t your only off-court experience.Another thing you did was pose for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. How did that come about?
I always wanted to do the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. It was always a dream of mine. Very few get the chance, so I was really happy when I got the call and the chance. I’ve done photo shoots before, but this was something special because of the prestige. It was a really big thing for me. I enjoyed the shoot and the time with the team a lot.
Are these opportunities, along with the career results, one of the big advantages of being a star?
Oh yes. The best part of life as a tennis player is the competition because I love it so much, measuring yourself against the other girls and and fighting against them. But off the court you get the chance to do amazing things, to travel the world and meet very interesting and cool personalities. Because of that you can overlook the few downsides there to the travelling circus.
You mentioned interesting personalities. For example, you met President Obama. Is he a tennis talent?
I played a bit against him, and he’s a pretty decent tennis player. I also found out that he used to play regularly. Being invited to the White House was a great honour. If I hadn’t been a tennis player, I’d never have experienced it.
But there are also negative sides to the business. Everyone knew about your engagement to Rory McIlroy and that you were about to get married, everyone knew when the relationship broke up, and now they’re guessing about a new relationship. How do you deal with the fact that everything happens in public?
Frankly I try not to read anything about myself. I know what I do and what the truth is. I have no influence on the rest. The can write what they want. Let them have their opinions. You just have to accept that’s the way it is and not bother about it.
But it’s never that easy. When you congratulated Jordan Spieth for his outstanding Masters win, it was interpreted as a dig at your ex Rory.
Just because I congratulate another golfer, people think there’s some kind of hidden message for God’s sake, when there isn’t at all. I often congratulate other athletes for their successes. Jordan Spieth accomplished something unbelievable and I congratulated him for it. That’s it. The time after the separation wasn’t easy for me, but I learned a lot about myself and I definitely became an adult. I’m convinced everything happens in life for a reason. I’m a stronger person now because of it.
Serena Williams stood by you as a friend the whole time. What does her friendship consist of?
Serena is simply a great woman. When we’re together, we have a great time. We laugh together and have a lot of fun, but we also talk honestly about everything. Serena is a wonderful friend who’s always there when you need her.
Unfortunately she’s not such a good friend on court and and she’s beaten you practically every time. Your record is 10-1 …
But we’ve had a lot of close matches. But it’s true, she as good as always come out on top in the end. It’s not a coincidence that she’s number one, has won so many Slams and is one of the greatest players of all time. I’ve never played against Steffi Graf, but for my generation she’s definitely the greatest. I have great respect for her, but every time we play against each other, I want to win. I’ll try again next time.
Close friendships are not very common especially in women’s tennis. Maria Sharapova has said that she can’t be friends with a player, eat dinner with her, and then go on court the next day and beat her. Is that the same for you?
I’m a very open person with people and I like to keep things going and have a good time.Tennis can be pretty lonely if you don’t have friends on the tour. There are a few girls I have a very close contact with off the court. While you’re playing a match, of course there’s no friendship. But you can separate the two no problem.
You likely have many more years left on the tour, but how do you see your life in ten years?
I hope people remember me and my tennis with fondness – that would be great. Otherwise when I’m no longer active I hope to have a nice husband and two kids, be a good mom to them, and live a normal, quiet family life.
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