“I need to improve my game, not change it.” Caroline Wozniacki on RG, Slams and Arantxa Sánchez

Caroline Wozniacki interview in the German net newpaper SPOX by Florian Regelmann Part One

Caroline, the French Open starts on Sunday at Roland Garros. There’s a nice video of you where you, as a little girl, say you’ll be in Paris later. Did you realize already then that you were going to be a professional tennis player?

(laughs) Yes I’ve believed since I was a kid I could make it. Although there were some bad periods on the way to the top, I’ve never doubted it. I’ve always had the dream of playing the big tournaments like the French Open and hopefully winning one sometime. When I saw the clip recently, I couldn’t believe I’d said that. It was cool to see it again. So I though I’d share it with my fans.

You’ve never done very well at the French Open – you’re best result is a quarter-final in 2010. Is there a reason why Paris has always been a disappointment for you?

Not really. I don’t really know why I haven’t had better results up to now at the French Open. My game really should fit on clay, but hopefully I can change that this year. In any case, I’m working hard at and I’ll give it everything I have in Paris. Hopefully it will be my year.

A first Slam title would definitely make 2015 your year. You’re still waiting for that big win. Are you felling pressure?

No. I hope that a Slam title is just a question of time. I work very hard every day to reach that goal. I know that’s what every training session is for – because I want to win a Slam. It’s one of the last things that I’m missing in my career. I’ve won pretty well everything else. A Slam title would be fantastic.

Does it bother you that you’ve won over 20 titles and were number one for a long time, but what’s mostly talked about is that you’re missing s Slam?

Honestly, I really don’t think about that much, I really don’t. As a tennis player, you have two big dreams: to be number one and to win a Slam. I’ve accomplished the first one, the second one not yet. But I hope I’ll have at least one Slam on the shelf before I hang up my racquet.

After all, you’ve been close. You’ve twice been in the US Open final, losing the one time to Kim Clijsters and the other to Serena Williams. What are you lacking to make the big score?

I don’t know if I’m lacking anything. I’ve beaten every player on the tour and shown that I can compete. It’s simply a question of the right timing and being in absolute top form over two weeks. Winning a Slam isn’t easy. If it were easy, everyone would have done it. It’s not easy either to win a tournament or be number one. I believe I’m good enough to win Slam titles. I need to improve and work hard, and it will happen eventually.

In 2010 you became number one in the world after a win in Peking. What do you remember about that moment?

Becoming world number one meant so much to me. Looking at the rankings list and seeing your name at the top is very special. Growing up, my dream was always to be number one. I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. For me it was a very big moment I’ll always remember. It was an incredible feeling.

When looking for reasons why you haven’t won Slam titles, the answer always ends up being, you aren’t aggressive enough. How do you feel about that criticism?

“I won so much playing my game, but it’s not enough for a Slam? I honestly don’t think it’s about my game or changing anything in it. It’s about hitting top form for those two weeks. It just hasn’t happened yet for me. My strength is to be aggressive from defence – that’s my game. I need to improve my game, not change it.

You’ve had some deep valleys in your career. 2013 was a difficult year for you. How did you climb back out again?

Because I was number for a while, and it was my ambition to stay there, then it’s a bad year when you finish the year at number ten. And looking back, a lot of players would have been happy to have had my 2013. In sports as in life, there are ups and downs. It’s quite normal. When things aren’t going so well, there’s only one thing you can do: keep going and work even harder than before, and your time will come again. So that’s what I did.

Currently you’re world number five and have been playing consistently well for some time. Is this the best Caroline Wozniacki ever?

“Yes, I’d definitely say that. I feel that I’m constantly improving. I’m definitely playing better than when I was number one. But the thing is, all the other players are improving, the level just gets higher and higher. Everyone wants to beat you. Everyone has analysed your videos and knows exactly how to play you. You really have to keep trying to stay one step ahead.

This year you tried to get new input from a brief collaboration with Arantxa Sánchez Vicario. What did you hope to gain?

We worked together for a couple of weeks in Miami. It was really a great experience for me. Arantxa is such a positive person. I love the energy she radiates. I got a few tips from her because there are very few who know more about clay court tennis. Spending time with her was great fun. We keep in touch regularly and hopefully we can work more intensively together in the future.

Translated by MAN

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18-year old Québecker Françoise Abanda is unhappy with the start of her 2015 season

Translation of this online piece from Le Journal de Montréal April 16 2015

The Québecker Françoise Abanda, only 18, is probably her own worst critic.

‘In the last six months, I haven’t met my own expectations when it comes to my goals, my objectives,’ she affirms after a practice session up to the Fed Cup meeting in Montréal April 18-19. ‘There have been some matches I should have won. I’m thinking about my ranking too, I can better it.’

Abanda is at 260 in the WTA world rankings.

But she’s been ranked as high as 175 last autumn, which allowed her to take part in Slam qualies.

Abanda works hard to climb the rankings. She knows she especially needs to improve her serve, especially her second shot. On the other side of the court, the Québecker is still trying to adjust to the powerful serves of certain of her opponents.

‘I’ve played against players with the hardest serves like Sabine Lisicki [at the 2014 US Open, lost 6-3, 7-5] and Venus Williams [in Québec City] and it’s quick, not at all like the serves I’m used to in juniors. It’s like a weapon for them. You’re certain to start the point badly when your opponent puts you in difficulty.’

Abanda isn’t necessarily surprised by the strength of her opponents, she simply has to go through a period of adjustment.

‘When you’re going to play Venus, you know you’re going to receive bombs,’ she indicated. ‘I expected it, but it’s just that it’s tough receiving. The ball gets to you quickly and there’s not much reaction time.’

Become a model

Despite everything, Abanda did well in Québec against Venus Williams, losing in two sets 7-5, 6-3 last September.

The start of 2015 has been more difficult.

‘I haven’t won a lot of matches, but I’ve gained a lot of experience,’ noted Abanda, who would have liked to have beaten Shahar Peer during the Australian Open Qualies.

The young Québecker is visibly impatient for the experience to translate into important wins.

‘I play tennis to leave my mark, to help and be a positive influence on young people,’ she continued. ‘If I have the ability to do that, that’s my goal. If I can get recognised and become a role model, that would be mission accomplished.’

To achieve her noble ambitions, Abanda needs to climb in the world hierarchy. Having blown out her 18 candles in February, she still has a few years to get there.

Translated by MAN

The Lighter side of Timea Bacsinszky – an interview by Svenja Mastroberardino @svenja_mastro

Interview by Svenja Mastroberardino from this piece on Lets Talk Tennis.

With 21 wins this season, of which 13 are consecutive, Timea Bacsinszky is off and running. The high flyer took the time to answer some rather more unusual questions from us at Lets Talk Tennis. In our interview we asked the 25-year-old about being mistaken for another, autographs and her music “sins”.

When did you last get an autograph?

It’s been quite a while. Several years ago I met Roger Tennis in the car park near Swiss Tennis in Biel. But I didn’t dare ask him for an autograph myself, so I sent Pierre Paganini after him and he came back with the autograph.

Hmm … it just occurred to me that wasn’t the last time. At the US Open in 2007 I had sore foot, so Martina Hingis lent me a pair of her shoes. I put them back in her locker after the match. The next day they were lying in my locker. Martina thought she had enough shoes so I could keep them. Then I asked her to autograph them.

When was the last time you were confused for someone else?

-That happened just recently in Acapulco. I was jumping rope to warm up and someone went up to my coach Dimitri and asked if I was Maria Sharapova. That made me laugh. Thank you so much, dear fan, but I’m not that big [laughs].

When was the last time you shared a room with a player?

It was quite a while ago. The last time I shared a room was with Imane Maelle Kocher at the Swiss club competition in 2010. She’s super nice and we laughed a lot together. On the tour it’s even farther back than that, 2007 I think. A former coach once told me that eating and sleeping are the most important things and to get enough of them. Whenever it was financially possible I’ve taken single rooms. Privacy is important for a tennis player.

When was the last time you bought a souvenir?

In Acapulco I bought about 20 small stuffed parrot key fobs. I’ll take them back to Switzerland to give to my nieces, my mother and my friend as small souvenirs. I always try bring a small keepsake from each place I’ve been to. Usually they’re magnets for my fridge – I have about 40 of them. So if someone doesn’t know what to give me, I’m always happy with magnets [laughs].

What was your worst experience travelling?

That would be in 2010 from Los Angeles to Miami. Fires broke out twice on board in the middle of the flight. They turned out to be nothing serious, but there was real panic on the plane. I was very happy when we landed safely.

When was the last time you were complemented by a player?

I have to say I received a lot of congratulations for my two tournament wins, from Aleksandra Krunic among others. I had a long talk with her last year at the ITF tournament in Kreuzlingen. We talked about how difficult it was to come back and climb up the rankings. After my win in Acapulco she hugged me and said, ‘Do you remember our talk? This is great, I’m so happy for you.’ At Indian Wells, Lesia Tsurenko, whom I beat in Acapulco and Monterrey, also congratulated me. It’s nice to hear that from opponents. It doesn’t happen often. I’d like to take this time to thank everyone for the many kind words and messages.

When did you last follow a tennis match on a scoreboard?

Last week for the Davis Cup. I followed all the matches and almost missed breakfast. Huge congratulations to the guys who almost made the impossible possible. Congratulations too to Henri for his performance, it was unbelievable. It was quite exhausting, almost fever-inducing [laughs].

Which musicians/bands on your Ipod are most cringe-worthy?

Hmmm … I have a song by Justin Bieber on my Ipod I thought was pretty good a few years ago, now I hardly listen to it. I have two songs by the Backstreet Boys I never play unless I’m with friends. They give me very funny looks. I still have some Britney Spears, but I’ll delete them soon.

How did you celebrate your wins in Acapulco and Monterrey?

After the win in Acapulco I had dinner with Dimitri and Andreas [Timea’s friend – Ed.] They both drank a glass of wine. I didn’t  because I had a flight the next morning. We captured the moment with a couple of Polaroids. It’s a very nice memory.

In Monterrey we got back to the hotel a 3.30 AM. I then spent 10 minutes alone outside. It was cold but it did me good. I listened to a Massive Attack song then enjoyed the peace and quiet. Then I had to go quickly back to my room and pack my things. Our transportation to the airport was arriving at 5. So we’ll celebrate properly when we’re back in Switzerland. We’ll organize something lovely and invite our friends. I’m really looking forward to it.

Who is your dream partner in doubles and mixed doubles?

With the women, it’s obviously Kim Clijsters. I found her super nice. I’m convinced we’d have a lot of fun together. Justine Henin would also be a great partner. With the men, it’s Roger. But it would be cool with Stan too. What do you think, should I ask him for the Olympic Games in Rio [laughs]? I’d like to play with Nadal too. He’s a defensive wall.

Translated by MAN

Swedish interview with Jonas Björkman on his Murray trial: “It will be a tough challenge”

From http://www.tennis.se/Nyheter/Nyheter/MurrayanlitarBjorkmanHankanblivarldsetta/ by Johanna Jonsson

Jonas Björkman might soon be back on the ATP tour – as a coach for the world nr. 4 Andy Murray. “I’m super excited to be asked,” said the Swede to tennis.se.

Andy Murray might strengthen his coaching staff with Swedish competency. 42-year-old Jonas Björkman is a hot topic for the job as assistant coach beside Amélie Mauresmo.

The parties will test the collaboration for a week.

” I met with him constantly when I was in Australia and afterwards I talked with his agent who wondered if Andy could give me a call. We’ve spoken several times since, both he and I and Amélie and I. It’s been going on for the last two to three weeks. It’s really good. I’m super excited to be asked such a great question,” says Björkman.

If the test week goes well, Björkman will work with Murray for 20 weeks a year. Head coach Mauresmo has 25 weeks in her contract.

“The way it looks now, Amélie and I will be together at certain times. We’ll share a bit during those periods. It feels really good after talking with them and it’s been interesting hearing how they’ve worked together the last eight-nine months,” says Björkman.

“Want to add more positive energy”

Björkman had a top ranking of four in singles and eight in doubles. His list of merits includes 54 doubles titles, of which nine are Grand Slams. He has six singles titles and two Grand Slam semi-finals. He retired in 2008.

As his coach, Björkman hopes to add his own strengths and help his new pupil to become more aggressive.

“He has a tendency to be very defensive, but the match against Berdych at the Australian Open was the best I’ve seen him play in a long while. The aggressiveness was wonderful to see and I think he needs to work on that. We talked after that about being more aggressive with his returns and work more on his volleying, how he moves forward and positions himself.

“It will be a tough challenge for me. Then I want to add more positive energy. Sometimes he has certain periods where he gets down on himself a bit too much,” says the Swede.

“Can threaten Novak for the number one ranking”

Murray’s best ranking is number two in the world, but Björkman sees number one potential in the Brit.

“The steps are big from three to two to one, even if it’s only one ranking spot. Age-wise he’s at his absolute peak now and onwards. I think he has every chance to win several Grand Slams and could threaten Novak (Djokovic) for the number one spot. Those are his goals and hopefully I can be there with him on the journey,” says the 42-year-old.

But before the parties can test the collaboration, Jonas Björkman has one more duty to fulfil – as a participant in the Swedish entertainment programme “Let’s Dance”.

“I hope I have some dancing weeks left. Then we’ll try and find a suitable week,” says Björkman.

Andy Murray stopped his years-long collaboration with assistant coach Dani Vallverdu before the start of this season.

Timea Bacsinszky: Flying high and getting noticed

Translation of this piece http://www.srf.ch/sport/tennis/wta-tour/timea-bacsinszky-ein-hoehenflug-mit-ankuendigung by Svenja Mastroberardino

Timea Bacsinszky is the high-flyer of the WTA. In Monterrey, the Vaud Canton native celebrated her second tournament title of this season – https://twitter.com/svenja_mastro — and proved that hard work and commitment pay off in the long run.

Once again Timea Bacsinszky needed to give a victory interview. Overcome by emotion, the player from Lausanne couldn’t hold back a few tears: “It’s unbelievable, I have no words,” she said, visibly moved.

12 wins in a row, titles number 2 and 3 – Mexico was truly a good place for the 25-year-old. Bacsinszky is really the player of the moment on the WTA tour. With an impressive 18 wins on the balance sheet against only 2 defeats, she is clearly the most successful player right now. Only the Czech Karoline Plíšková can match her for wins in 2015 (against 6 losses). In the last 4 tournaments she’s played in, Bacsinszky has reached the final 3 times – and that’s a record.

Fed Cup captain Gündthardt is impressed

Two tournament titles in a row with quality play. SRF tennis expert and Fed Cup captain Heinz Günthardt had only praise: “Over such a time span you’ll always have matches when you’re not at your best. For Timea  to still find a way to win says a lot about her.”

Günthardt never had any doubts about Bacsinszky’s abilities, but the way she would explode upwards in the rankings was something no one dared expect (from 285 at the end of 2013 to 26 on Monday). “She is an immensely talented tennis player. Earlier she lacked consistency – during training too, partly due to injuries but also because of problems with motivation.”

A model pro even in training

A statement Beni Linder can attest to. Swiss Tennis’ head fitness coach has worked with the sensitive Romande [someone from the French-speaking parts of Switzerland]. “The Timea of today can’t be compared with the old Timea. Now she’s completely professional about her job, whereas before she struggled with others but especially with herself.” Driven by her ambitious father, she often lacked the joy of sport. This can now be just a catalyst: “There is so much joy in Timea. That’s what gives her so much energy.” said Linder.

In the last 12 days Bacsinszky has played 10 matches and spent almost 22 hours on the court – some of them well into the night. But there were no signs of fatigue or physical exhaustion. “The physical effort it has taken to get to this level shouldn’t be underrated,” said Günthardt. “Timea has run a lot of metres and spent a lot of time in the weight room. That can’t be stressed enough.”

Linder added: “Her performance is a product of continuous daily work. Timea winning a tournament didn’t come as a surprise for us. But we didn’t expect it to lead to such a continuously high level.” This from the fitness coach who is in regular contact with Bacsinszky’s coach Dimitri Zavialoff.

Next exploit at a Grand Slam?

She wanted to see what her limits were, Bacsinszky has said repeatedly after being “near quitting”. Where does Günthardt think they lie? “If she keeps this up, she can get into the top 10. To do this, she needs to play where the points are — at the Grand Slams. She has the level in any case.” The next chapter in this story is waiting to be written.

Translated by Mark Nixon with corrections by Svenja Mastroberardino

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