Her most wide-ranging interview yet: Former tennis nr.1 Caroline Wozniacki interviewed by former badminton #1, now TV sports host Camilla Nørgaard

Transcription of a TV interview on Danish TV3 Sport 1 on June 22, 2017.

Camilla Martin is a former world number one badminton player. She won every badminton Major at least once except the Olympics, where she won silver.  Caroline Wozniacki needs no introduction.

 

Caroline, here we are in the Japanese Gardens [in Monaco] where you live. What’s it like being Caroline Wozniacki right now?

It’s fine. My life is on track, I’m playing good tennis, I got through the clay season more or less …

What is it with that clay season?!

It’s the part of the season I just need to get through and do as well as I can. I finished well at the French Open, and I’m glad to get back on hard courts and training up to the grass season which I’m looking forward to.

You seem happy and in good balance. What is it that is simply working well right now?

I think it’s a combination of my body feeling really good and keeping in one piece, and I can train properly and get good results. I’m playing at my top level, my private life is good, my family is well and healthy, everything around me is working perfectly.

You’ve got a new boyfriend and he’s also in the sport world. What does having met him mean?

I think it means a lot to have something different in my life, a calmness. He supports me. Whether I’ve had a good day or a bad day, he’s there. He knows what it’s like to be top-level professional athlete, and I think that means quite a lot.

You’re in the spotlight most of the team. How do you happen to meet a guy like that?

I’ve known him for a very long time. We met through mutual friends and we just took it easy. It was under the radar and I think it’s nice that we could keep the most private things to ourselves and I think it’s meant that we’ve grown even closer to each other.

Do you think that this period you’re in now, that looks a lot brighter than it did a year ago, do you think that’s because there are other thoughts, things in your life, a different focus than just tennis?

Yeah, I think for sure it’s important especially when it’s not working on the court, when you’ve been injured, and it’s tough and you can’t stand on a tennis court, and you have to train fitness all the time, and you can’t walk properly and such, it’s nice to have someone else who can tell you to just take it easy, do other things, get your mind off it. It meant that I wanted to get back to training fitness, now I had to pull myself together, it couldn’t be just him who was training and getting into shape, so I think that certainly helped. So there was no pressure when I started up again, I just took it my own pace and it took the time it took. I’d fallen way down in the rankings anyway so I just thought, what the heck …

Can he play tennis?

— He played tennis until he was 12. He’s left-handed and he can play tennis. He was very cocky at the start, ‘I can beat Caroline…’

Typical guy!

— Then I put him in his place and now he doesn’t want to play me any more!

If we look back a year, your tennis life looked a bit different than it does now. I remember talking with you last year up to Wimbledon, and you said ‘it doesn’t really matter to me whether I’m seeded or unseeded, because I’m just not playing very well’. When you look back at that time, what are your thoughts now?

Looking back, I think it was probably good I got injured. It gave me time to hone things, get my playing desire back, and to finally get rid of all the small injuries. It was a period where I didn’t really miss tennis. I could get into top shape, and I thought, OK, I’m in the best shape of my life, and when I got back out on the practice court, I started to feel I was beginning to hit the ball really well, and it was really the best I’d ever hit the ball, and I thought it was just a question of time before I started to play well. When I had practice matches against the other players, I beat them every time, so it was just a question of time and staying with it.

During that time when things were a drag, you didn’t think, ‘it doesn’t matter any more, I may as well just quit,’ but there was something that kept you going.

— I think that as a sports person, when you’ve been number one in the world, you’ve been up there, you don’t think it’s cool to quit when you’re number eighty or whatever I was. It’s a bit of a dumb time to end your career. So I thought, I just have to fight my way back one way or another, whether it takes a month or half a year, I’ll find a way to pull my self together and find my way back. When I’m really tired of it and think, OK, that’s enough, then I’ll say that’s that.

What’s Caroline Wozniacki like during that sort of time when it’s not working?

Actually, when I got injured, it was like, you know what? Now I don’t care whether I was number ten in the world or number 100, it didn’t matter. I had good support from my family, and friends, it meant I had some perspective. In the beginning you’re irritated, you can do better, you see people you beat and think, OK, that should be me, but then I thought, you know what? It’s my chance to really come back and make my mark when I return.

I have to admit I had my doubts when I talked with you a year ago about whether we’d really see you back in the top 10 again. Have you ever personally had doubts?

— No. Like, at different times I thought, it’s a drag going out onto the practice courts and playing matches, it’s not as much fun as it was, and and I thought, OK, is it time to hang up my racquet? Or should I try and fight on, is it just a brief period? But really I thought, as soon as I’m fresh and if I’m playing well, I mean, I never really knew if I’d get back to the top ten or not, but I knew my game was good enough to beat those who were in the top ten. Serena is the only player, if she’s in top form and playing at her top level, I feel OK, she’s tough to beat.

You’ve been close to beating her a few times.

Exactly. I beat her once, but that was quite a few years ago. But she’s the only player I think, OK, meeting her is an uphill slog.

You’ve always been super diligent during your training, I know, and you still are. When we stood on the practice court and talked earlier, you asked me how long I trained when I played, and I told you four hours a day, and you said that was almost too much. When you look back at that time, what have you learned and what have you done differently?

In the past, when I was younger, and actually until a couple of years ago, I trained every day four hours a day, with two hours of fitness on top of that, and when I got home, I was completely knackered. And a couple of times a month, I came to training and I had three training periods left, two on the court and one at the fitness centre, or twice fitness, and I could feel that it was a heavy load, and my body was starting to say stop. I started getting injuries here and there. And I couldn’t understand it. It was something I normally could. Why is my body quitting on me? But then you have to remember you’re getting older. You don’t get younger. And my body had taken some knocks through time. And I think what I learned was that I needed to turn the volume of training down, the amount, but train intensively and put more thought into what I was doing. Now I train maybe two hours of tennis a day, or, on some days two hours of tennis in the morning and one hour in the afternoon. But that’s the most I’ll do in a day. I’ll never train four hours again. Now it’s a question of enjoying it while I’m out there, because you never know how long you’ll be out there, or how long your body holds out, or how long you feel like playing. Right now I feel, OK, if my career ends tomorrow, or something happens, knock on wood it doesn’t, then I’m fine with that, because I’ve really enjoyed playing, and the last months or year have been fun, and I’ve really done what I could. Ending your career thinking, oh, it’s so horrible being out there every day, not thinking it’s fun, I don’t think I deserve that. Now I think, OK, you know what? What’s the worst that can happen? I fall down the rankings again, so I just have to fight my way back up again.

You want to stop still thinking it’s fun.

Exactly.

What are you most furious about of the things you can guaranteed do on the practice court, but have trouble taking with you to matches.

Drop shots

I saw you practising them today.

Yeah. Drop shots are something I’ve practised for years, and thought, NOW they’re working, but every time I’m told, don’t use drop shots during matches, they’re not working. So I tried anyway, and hit the serve lines, and I was getting killed using them, so I just put them aside. But they’re actually starting to work well lately, so … But something I’ve got better at now, maybe because I’ve got older and calmer, and better at seeing the court: volleying. It’s something I’ve done really well in practice for several years, but in matches I’ve been at the net, and thought, what do I do now? Which side do I go to? It’s where I’m happiest winning a point, and the most angry when I lose one. I’ve done everything right and there I am and I have no clue where the ball’s coming from. I’ve got better at it as I’ve got older.

Why do you think that is?

— It’s think in general my game isn’t based on being at the net so many times or at the end of every rally, and it’s, like, OK, here I am at the net, I’m happy, I can finish the point off quickly, and then it’s, Oh no, I’m at the net! And then it happens so fast, and the ball is past you.

What’s it like to be judged and measured after every single match?

My attitude depends on how well I know the person. If it’s someone who’s grown up with me, and has seen me from when I was a junior, or a U-12, to now, or if it’s someone who’s never seen me practice or play matches, and suddenly has an opinion. There’s a big difference. Like, if it’s someone who’s been a part of my training or my team at some point, then I respect what they say, they have the right to an opinion, and sometimes it super good, other times it’s, she needs to do this or that better, then OK. If it’s coming from a place where they’ve followed my practices, they’ve followed my matches, then I’m OK with it. But if it’s people with an attitude, or aren’t in tennis any more, or haven’t had anything to do with tennis, have never seen my play or practice, or met me once when I was twelve, then it’s, like, Come On! [said by both simultaneously] Just go away.

There are a lot of people who’ve had an opinion about your coaching set-up. You’ve had your father as your coach. During that time, when there have been an amazing number of opinions about it, has it been tough for you to stick with: he’s the one you want, that’s the way it is.

— I think, not really for me personally, but I think it’s been tough for my father, always having to defend himself. I think it’s been a shame. I know how much he puts into it, and how much he’s helped me, he’s been my coach since the beginning, and hasn’t received the credit for it. I think that’s been tough. The people closest know how much he’s given. It’s been tough seeing him sawed in half because I’ve lost a match or not done as well as some expect. It’s more that I feel sorry for him than I question it.

What is the biggest reason you think it’s the best thing for you to have your father as coach?

— For me, well, he’s my father and wants what’s best for me. I’m his daughter, so that’s obvious. But also that he’s been with me every step of the way since I was seven and picked up a racquet for the first time. And maybe we’ve parted ways at times, then come back together and decided this was the way to do things. There’s that belief. We trust each other. We might go the wrong way so we can get on to the right way, but we do it together. It’s given fantastic results. It’s nice to have the family along when you travel alone so much. I’m a person who likes to be alone a lot, but, at the same time, but I also like that there’s family, or people around you can relax with, where you don’t feel you need to talk with them, or they don’t need to talk with you, but just understand you.

Is it also with your dad being able to be the ‘hysterical daughter’ when it suits, and be Caroline the good tennis player when there’s time for that?

For sure. It means a lot. As an athlete yourself you know there are days where you think, it’s tough to be out here and you’re playing terribly in practice or in matches, and you need to unload, other times you think it’s the greatest thing in the world, and you want them to ride along and think it’s just as much fun as you think it is. That’s where it’s good to have someone who knows you so well that they think, OK, it’s going to be a long day, or it’s going to be a good day.

You’re in the spotlight a lot. Do you think it’s hard – I know there were times when I thought it was – with that spotlight to be able to show who you also are, besides being Caroline the elite athlete.

I’ve been in the spotlight for so many years now. I think I was eight when I did my first interview. So it’s been part of my everyday life. I’ve almost grown up with social media, it started to get big what, ten years ago?

Yeah, it’s hard to remember when it started …

Yeah, it’s where you start to think, it’s fun with the Internet, it’s fun with Twitter and Instagram, but you’ve learned really a lot that there some things you want to share and other things you need to keep closer to yourself. At the same time, I had role models I wanted to know more about, so in that way I want to give something to my fans, but at the same time, it’s important you protect yourself.

Do you think about what you’re saying, even in this situation where you and I are sitting together talking?

I think for sure you think about what you share and what you don’t share, because you know you’ll get even more questions about some things if you …

Open up a bit …

Yeah, and sometimes you just don’t feel like going down that road, and the papers start writing things that maybe you really haven’t said, and they start speculating and stuff like that, and you start thinking, I really don’t feel like it …

Let’s get into something I also know well – it wasn’t quite as fancey as Sports Illustrated, but IN magazine I was involved with – there were many who busied themselves with saying you should take care of your tennis first, and stay away from that circus. What would you say to them?

I think that if people had the same chances I had, they would have done exactly the same. I got a huge opportunity, and it was obvious I’d take that chance. It’s not like I train 24/7. I could do something I thought was fun and inspiring on the side. It could only help my tennis.

What did you think when you were asked?

I was totally excited! I thought, it can’t be right they’re asking me! I thought, now I really need to get into top shape, everything has to be in the right place, and there’s Photoshop, and they said ‘no no, we have cameras that follow you everywhere’, and then I thought now I’ll have to walk around and flex all day! But I thought it was a lot of fun. It was one of the most fun photo shoots I’ve ever been on. But to be asked three times in a row … no other athlete has been asked three times. It was big.

Wimbledon is closing in, Caroline. You won as a junior. Fourth round, you’ve been there five times. You like to play much more on grass than clay as you’ve mentioned several times. How much does it bother you that you haven’t gone past that fourth round yet?

Every time I’ve gone out in the fourth round, I’ve thought, that bloody fourth round! It’s irritating. Sometimes I’ve been close, other times I haven’t been close to winning that match. But there have been a lot of different ways I’ve gone out of the tournament. And I thought, damned fourth round. But now it’s , I’ve been there so many times, now at some point I’m going to break that fourth round code. It’s has to happen at some point. And if it doesn’t, then that’s the way it is.

When you look at the Wimbledon field, then there’s no player, like you said, you can’t beat. What are your expectations, then? What do you want to succeed at Wimbledon this year? Besides that fourth round?

Obviously, every time I go into a tournament I want to win it. If I didn’t want to win the tournament, I wouldn’t play it, or train for it. It’s about getting through one round at a time. There are seven rounds, it’s over two weeks, so you have to be focussed and ready for every round, and you can play all sorts of different players. So I just want to go into it injury-free, and hopefully have some good matches in Eastbourne, and then I’ll take it from there. I really don’t want to put any pressure on myself, just enjoy being out there and hopefully play on the main courts.

Besides that fourth round, people ask about that Grand Slam win. Is it something you think about?

— Of course I’d like to win a Grand Slam. It’s the only thing missing on my CV. But as they say, ‘if it’s meant to be, it’s gonna be.’

Novak Đoković on a day-to-day coach, his diet, his tennis bag

Novak on coach, diet, bag…

Original link (IN SERBIAN): http://sportklub.rs/Blog/Sasa-Ozmo/a174309-Meso-ili-ne-otadzbina-trener-sokolovi-Novak-izbliza.html

New coach (besides Agassi)

I have a list of candidates, but I don’t want to reveal anything because I would not want to put anyone in an awkward position. He has to meet my wishes, but also Andre’s – Agassi is my mentor, head coach, priority, and he needs to say OK before I hire anyone. Both of us have to be sure as that coach would spend more time than Andre with me. We have spoken to one man and I hope, ideally, that I will have someone by Wimbledon – if not, then after Wimbledon.

Image of the new coach?

He would have to fit in with our vision of life and tennis – Andre and I have a lot in common in terms of how we perceive the game and everything that surrounds it. We have to take everything into consideration as I am not the same person I used to be before I became a father, for example – it is a big change; family on the road, lot of obligations, different rhythm, so a new coach would have to adjust to that.

More specifically, I would like it to be someone with experience at the top level, preferably an ex-player because that is a bonus – because then the communication goes much easier: he already understands my mental state on the court, while I am preparing, travelling, recovering… Those type of conversations can be long or short, depending on the person. Also, I’d prefer someone younger because that is the kind of energy that drives me and inspires me.

His diet?

I don’t want to get too much into it because people read the papers and draw certain conclusions, yet they are not well-informedenough about the subject or they don’t know much about the person. My diet is based on vegetables. You can find proteins in vegetables as well, not just in meat, but our people (in Serbia) know only about meat because it is our culture. I also eat fish and eggs as a source of protein, but I haven’t been eating meat since August or September 2015. I’ve got my own reasons, both ethical and health. I don’t want to succumb to pressure. I am not going back to meat at this time.

On his tennis bag

Novak has 12 hawks that symbolize Grand Slam titles, why hawks?

The hawk is my favourite bird, one of my favourite animals. It has something to do with my Montenegrin roots. My late grandpa used to call me „Hawk“ (common nickname in Serbia, Montenegro…), so there is that as well. Also, I find hawks fascinating as they don’t prey on the sick and the small. Besides, when it attacks, it does so with enormous speed, so I like to think of myself as a hawk when I attack a tennis ball. Yellow smilies symbolize Masters titles and blue smilies stand for World Tour Finals titles.

What must Novak have in his bag?

It happens often that I forget my wallet or phone. When I go to practice, especially during the tournament, I am focused on what I need to do, so people close to me often complain that they can’t reach me. Aside from tennis shoes, rackets and lenses, there is nothing that HAS to be in my bag. I carry a cross that I got at the Ostrog monastery. I got a really nice gift from a girl in China that I used to carry around for a few years, but I am not attached to things and I am not superstitious. My day does not depend on whether I brought something with me or didn’t; I won’t feel depressed if I forget something.

On Serbia

I’ve got unconditional love for my country—it’s my home, I belong there. In the last ten years or so, since I am not living there any more, I feel butterflies in my stomach every time I go back, and memories from my childhood start coming back to me. A man can go around the world, but there is no place like home.

It is normal that there are people who love me less and those who love me more. I try to do what I can—I am a human being also: I make mistakes, mature and try to learn from those mistakes, and I always stand up for values that I believe are right, values instilled in me by my parents and everyone who contributed to my maturing and evolving.

 

Translated by Saša Ozmo