Interview with Piotr Wozniacki: “I’ve forgotten to enjoy myself and I regret that.”

Interview with Piotr Wozniacki in the Danish Jyllands-Posten online by Thomas Møller Kristensen

Manners: Piotr Wozniacki is the man behind Denmark’s first world tennis star. In this retrospective he’s annoyed about always having hunted progress, but most of all he’s grateful that his daughter has become a good person despite the pressure and criticism.

WIMBLEDON – The smile. There really are so many kinds. Some create happiness, others anger, some reach as high as the eyes, others need time in front of the mirror to master. Then there’s the special kind that’s reserved for that special person.

Like the smile a father has thinking about his daughter.

That was the sort of smile Piotr Wozniacki was wearing a little over a week before Wimbledon.

He’d just been with the stringer, one of Caroline Wozniacki’s racquets needed tightening and she quickly ripped the packaging off when he returned.

After smacking it a couple of times with the palm of her hand she looked questioningly at her father: it didn’t feel right, it felt strange, and it ended with a bit of an argument about how tight the stringing should be.

No one would give in, and numbers flew around the room, there was head shaking and arguing back and forth before Caroline Wozniacki exclaimed, “yeah yeah”, turned around and left.

One had the feeling the discussion was far from over, but she’d been training hard, it was time to eat, and the discussion would have to be continued later.

And that’s why Piotr Wozniacki sat there with that smile.

Daddy’s girl, an independent person, own opinions and the guts to deliver them.

“Girl” is perhaps the wrong word.

Caroline Wozniacki is approaching 25 and her 10th anniversary as a professional, and that’s why Piotr Wozniacki has agreed to an interview. He admits that the anniversary is a good reason for a retrospective, but he punctures the premise immediately.

For him it hasn’t been 10 years, it’s been a lifetime project.

Caroline Wozniacki was interviewed for the first time as an eight-year-old, when she spoke about her dream of being the world’s best and winning a Slam. She travelled to Japan, Australia, indeed the whole world as a new teenager. In the family’s and Caroline Wozniacki’s own mind she’d become a professional long before 2005.

“Maybe people mostly notice the strawberries on top of the cake, but we’ve spent many years making the cake itself,” is how Piotr Wozniacki put it.

A half hour soliloquy

He didn’t get up and leave the table after making the statement; he wanted to talk. He had to get things out, emphasise points. Actually, he had so much on his mind that the interview became almost one-way communication.

Asking the question about what he was most proud of about Caroline, not as a player but as a person, pushed a button somewhere.

32 minutes and 18 seconds later he put so many headlines into the Dictaphone that there hadn’t been room for a single follow-up question. The words poured out of him, one word lead to another, and all the titles and the money and the experiences weren’t what were mentioned the most.

His soliloquy was more about the personal, of his concerns about having followed and pushed his daughter so focussed in one direction.

It was about regrets about not having allowed himself to enjoy all the big moments and of the joy of seeing her grow into a woman of substance and energy and not the least humanity in a world lacking the same.

That doesn’t mean that Piotr Wozniacki is a softy.

He’s been extremely focussed on pushing obstacles out of the way and helping his daughter, but there have been many practical situations that required alternative solutions.

A very young interpreter

He came to Denmark from Poland, from the Eastern Bloc, where he didn’t learn English, only Polish and Russian. Not very useful when they started travelling outside the country, so it was 11-12-year-old Caroline who used her school English to book hotels, order food in restaurants and contact tournament leaders.

“Just think about it. Such a little girl together with adults who are talking business and management. She had to translate everything for me because I was hopeless at communicating. There were sometimes serious negotiations or other things, so it was important that she did it well, because I needed to go on and do the right things with a contract or some such,” declares Piotr Wozniacki.

“She enjoyed it and felt very grown up, but I was nervous that I was stealing her childhood, that she would grow up too quickly. I spoke with Anna (Caroline’s mother) and friends about it. I knew nothing about pedagogy and child psychology. I’d only been to a sports university so I had to research all the information because I didn’t want to hurt her. I worried a lot about that, and I’m proud about how well it went and relieved that she wasn’t hurt.”

Piotr Wozniacki has seldom shown this sensitive side.

He was quickly branded as something of an eccentric from the East, obviously obsessed with living his sports ambitions through his daughter because it was impossible that she could have those sorts of thoughts at such a young age.

The sport of tennis has seen too many of those kinds of family tragedies, and Piotr Wozniacki still feels personally insulted by the stories and the accusations. The repeated attacks brought the family and their near friends closer together and they used the “us against the world” feeling as fuel and gathered the necessary economic backing to realise the visions.

The suspicions about his motives have disappeared, but Piotr Wozniacki is still tired of seeing his daughter’s achievements demeaned. Technically, Caroline Wozniacki still isn’t over the finish line because she still needs to win that Slam title and that’s constantly mentioned at least four times a year in connexion with the Australian, French, US Opens and Wimbledon.

A little perspective

Piotr Wozniacki is ready for constructive criticism, but some retired Danish tennis players have raised his hackles.

“Yeah, they’ve been on the tour once, but how much have they won? How high have they got in the rankings? They’re two different worlds, and they still come with their condescending talk. She was a young girl when she heard it for the first time. She’s put in a huge effort, travelled the world and she’s proud of her results, and then she reads, yeah, yeah, she only won because Serena wasn’t there, or it was a small $100,000 tournament, but is that really a small amount of money?”, asks Piotr Wozniacki rhetorically.

“Sure we can talk about whether she played well and needs to work on things, but I don’t understand the other stuff. Tennis is the only sport where girls earn the same as boys, so naturally a million girls in the world want to be good at tennis. And despite that, Caroline from Denmark is one of the world’s best. It’s evil coming with the kind of crap she’s had to put up with, so I’m proud of the way she’s tackled adversity without becoming bitter. I hope one day there’s a Dane who can achieve the same things as Caroline, so people can understand how much she’s accomplished.”

At one time it appeared he’d be a father to another talent with the potential to go further.

Patrik Wozniacki, four years older than Caroline, had the same relationship with a football as she had to a tennis ball, but he never got higher than the secondary divisions.

Piotr Wozniacki has earlier regretted that he’d had to ‘choose’ between the two and back Caroline, and he’s grateful to see that his children have a fine relationship right up to today.

Patrik could have been disappointed over being number two and not breaking through, he could have not felt sorry about his little sister’s tribulations, but they worry about each other and take care of each other.

On the other hand, Piotr Wozniacki regrets that he hasn’t had the same energy.

He’s been so absorbed by the striving for achievements that he hasn’t allowed himself to stop and enjoy the feeling of a great result.

“I’ve forgotten to enjoy myself, and I regret that. We’ve won titles, had weeks as number one, so men great things I haven’t spent time enough thinking about because I’ve always thought about the next practice or the next tournament,” admits Piotr Wozniacki.

“I’ve lost happiness in a way, and it’s wrong to sit here and know that we’ve never been satisfied with a final or a semi-final even if it’s a super result.”

To explain his feelings, Piotr Wozniacki paints the picture of a dream car a man has fantasized about for several years. He can finally afford it, he’s deeply in love, but after a few months he’s no longer spending time sneaking to the window just to look at the wonder.

Happiness over the result

That’s not the way it’s going to be in the future, Piotr Wozniacki has promised himself. In the future he’ll try and find satisfaction in the moment, but he can’t go back into the past and be happy in retrospect.

“That’s why I’m just happy to look at Caroline every day and see the real thing. So I just have to accept the things I might have been able to do better or differently. I’m proud that she thinks of others. She doesn’t just take money from her account and give it to charity, she runs marathons to raise money. She uses herself,” says Piotr Wozniacki.

“She’s done a lot of things that aren’t publicised, and that’s what is most important to me. She’s been involved in hundreds of good things without shouting, “look at me, look at the good things I’m doing” to the whole world. I’m proud of that. She’s incredibly sensible, she’s a good person, she has what money can’t buy.”

Piotr Wozniacki didn’t go on any further because a dog in his pocket suddenly barked, an incoming call.

The telephone brought him out of his trance, it was time go move on, a meeting needed arranging.

And there was that little discussion about stringing to finish.

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Interview with Wozniacki: The dream of the Wimbledon junior 2006 champion has become a reality

Translation of an interview in the Danish daily newspaper Politiken by Peter Pilegaard.

Nine years after her junior title at Wimbledon, Caroline Wozniacki is a grown woman and exactly where she dreamed she would be in her career.

It’s stifling hot on the Wimbledon practice court. Caroline Wozniacki has just spent an hour on Court 15 where she won’t be playing a match.

Father Piotr gathers up the balls while brother Patrick and mother Anna, who have been intensely following the session, remain seated on the bench by the practice court where the world number five has just practised ground strokes and volleys.

Caroline Wozniacki sits down and sniffs, but she’s not sad. Quite the contrary.

The feeling is the same every time

She’s happy, but she’s suffering from hay fever like 2/3 of the Danish population. The grass courts of Wimbledon can be a tease, but Caroline Wozniacki is happy to be here. She’s returned every year since she won the girl’s title in 2006. She’s now playing for the 2015 title as a grown woman among the world’s elite.

“I played here as a girl with the dream of being where I am now,” is the then and now analysis.

But the feeling of being in London and playing Wimbledon hasn’t changed.

“It’s the same every year, both as a girl and as an adult. I get butterflies when I’m here. It’s a special feeling. It’s great! That feeling is why I’ve trained so hard all my life. This is where I want to be,” says Caroline Wozniacki.

She’s more laid back in her private life than on the court

Her tennis game has changed in the same way she’s developed as a person. Tennis legend Billy Jean King has said that her great success in the 1960s as a player at Wimbledon was the result of her personality and playing style fitting the era she played tennis in.

Caroline Wozniacki agrees with that remark and thinks that you can’t change your personality in the hunt for the game you want to play:

“As a young player, you try and find your game, try to figure out what you’re good at, what your base is, what you can improve, and exactly what it is you win matches with. You can’t just change a player’s game because you think that’s what it takes to win. You need to find out exactly what type of player you are. How I am both as a player and as a person,” says the Danish tennis star.

Caroline Wozniacki is very conscious of who she is, both as a player and as a person.

For example, John McEnroe was a player known for his fiery temper both on and off the court. But Caroline doesn’t think she’s the same person at home as she is on the court.

“I think I’m completely different. I’m more aggressive on the court than I am at home. It’s not my natural instinct for me to go on to the court and just flail away at every ball, but being on the court brings out my fighting instinct. I get irritated and I get going. I love the big stage with lots of spectators. I’m hard on myself and I’m a perfectionist when I’m on the grass at Wimbledon—and every other court. At home, I’m more laid back and calm.”

She feels like an American at the US Open

Caroline Wozniacki opens up for the situations she finds herself in off the court, but, at the same time, she’s very conscious of adapting when necessary.

“I really think it suits my game and my playing style actually,” she adds.

Wimbledon is something very special to Caroline Wozniacki, as it is to all other players. Some tournaments are—as she herself admits—played on experience. But both Wimbledon and the US Open have always, since she was a girl, been something very special for the Danish top player.

But when the talk is about whether Wimbledon is the biggest, the feeling is that the US Open is really THE tournament Caroline Wozniacki would most like to win:

“Wimbledon and the US Open are both fantastic tournaments. They’re very different, but I love the US Open. That’s where I’ve been closest to Slam win. The support last year made me feel almost like a local American. It was wild. The tournament has a good vibe. It just suits me.”

Hey mum — I’m over here

Piotr Wozniacki has his coaching eyes on his daughter while the rest of the family watch Caroline closely. The whole family is here for one thing: to follow the wonder child.

“At home it’s my brother, Patrick, who usually gets all the attention. He’s the favourite child—so I get a bit of attention here,” says Caroline Wozniacki and smiles.

“My mother is always telling everyone how it’s going with Patrick. Hey, mum— I’m right here, me too,” she continues with a gleam in her eye and finishes:

“We have a good balance at home.”

The Wimbledon girls’ champion from 2006 has grown up.

Caroline Wozniacki continues to live out her childhood dream. Wimbledon’s grass is at her feet.

Translated by MAN

“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