“I see many things differently now.”
From an interview by Heiko Hinrichsen in the Stuttgarter Zeitung.
Congratulations, Ms. Goerges. At the Australian Open, you were the most successful German tennis player.
“Yes, with the quarterfinal in Auckland and the Round of 16 in Melbourne, it’s the best start to a season of my career—it’s never gone this well before. It’s a very nice start which I can build on.”
In doubles, you even reached the semifinals with Anna-Lena Grönefeld; then a flu virus stopped you. How can that be, when it’s summer in Australia?
“Unfortunately, there was a virus going around Melbourne, despite the heat. I got a fever the night before the semifinal. The next day, on court, I just had nothing in me, so we had to stop after 0-6 in the first set. That’s very annoying, obviously, but it can’t be changed. But we played so well before that that I don’t think it will be our last Grand Slam semifinal.”
Now it’s time for team play again. Do you enjoy playing Fed Cup?
“Definitely. For me it’s an honor to play for my country, whether it’s at the Olympics or in Fed Cup. That’s why I’m always there, because for me it’s something special. As a tennis player, you don’t have many chances to represent your country as a team; so, I always look forward to the weeks with the other girls. We’re a good squad.”
And what’s your role on the team?
“It’s important to integrate yourself into the team for the week. It doesn’t matter what happened before that or what happens afterwards, because every one of us will be on her own again. But in Fed Cup, we all have to work together. The big ask is to always support every player who is on court 100%. That means that sometimes you, personally, have to take a back seat. I think I’m pretty good at being there for the others. And I expect the same when I’m on court. It’s give and take.”
Is the pressure higher during Fed Cup than it is during the regular WTA tour?
“During the regular season, there are always days when I’m more nervous than usual and some where I’m barely stressed. But in Fed Cup, you’re always nervous. There are so many people behind you. Additionally, you feel it’s your duty to do your best for the team and you don’t want to disappoint the fans as well. There’s quite a bit of nervousness.”
You will definitely play in doubles against Australia—probably with Sabine Lisicki. Don’t you also have the ambition to play singles as well, where recently Angelique Kerber and Andrea Petkovic were the front runners?
“Our team captain, Barbara Rittner, has to decide who plays in singles. Of course, I want to do better on tour and move up the rankings that way. But I don’t see the German players as Fed Cup competitors anyway. Every one of us has contributed her part of the puzzle to the team’s performance and has led us to the level which we’ve now reached. In general, you could claim that the world ranking isn’t quite as important as it was five years ago. The many early exits of favorites showed that as well.”
But in the end the No.1, Serena Williams, won.
“Serena and Maria Sharapova certainly are among the exceptions. Against these two, you can lose even with a very good performance. But against many other players it’s like this: if I play well, then I have a very good chance. The ranking is a number that, at the end of the day, says how many points I won on tour. But it doesn’t say everything about the quality of the tennis.”
You suffered a severe wrist injury in Brussels in 2013, were injured for months, and crashed down the rankings after 16 first-round losses. Did that change you?
“Indeed. I see a lot of things differently now, especially in the last year when I lost a few close three-set matches. If I had won those, I’d be Top 30 and not ranked 69th. So, the ranking distorts a lot. In any case, I’m playing better now than I did three years ago.”
But back then you were ranked 15th.
“My whole package of athleticism, consistency, and my repertoire of shots is a lot bigger now than it was back then, without any doubt. It doesn’t show in my results because the depth of good players increased a lot in recent times. But in general, I see everything much more relaxed now and I appreciate what I have. At the end of the day, tennis is just a game. You try your best, but if you lose, you lose. Many don’t even get the chance to experience what I experience.”
In 2011 you won the Porsche Grand Prix, one of your two singles titles. That should make Stuttgart a special place for you?
“It is, definitely. The arena is a bit like my living room to me; it always brings back nice memories. It’s not like we’re playing a tournament in Germany every week, so it feels particularly good to play in front of a home crowd. Additionally, the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix isn’t just any tournament, but one that the players have voted their favorite event in the world many times.”
Prague, where the Fed Cup final was lost 1-3 in November 2014, may elicit more negative memories. Was the team not clever enough?
“The Czechs, of course, had much more experience than we did. We were aware that they had been in a final before and had played in front of 11,000 spectators who wildly applauded every point they won. We had never been there before. In such an inferno [a German expression for a very loud, emotional stadium], many new factors play a role: there’s the mental pressure and the noise in the arena. You feel inhibited on court and ask yourself: ‘How can I play like this?'”
But Czechs Lucie Safarova and Petra Kvitova didn’t make an impression of being unbeatable.
“I thought we definitely had a chance—we’d beaten them on tour before. But of course, you mustn’t forget where we as the German team came from from and that the Czechs had won the Fed Cup three times in the last four years. That shows their quality. For us, it was a big success to be in the final. We learned a lot in Prague. Now we’re hoping to be in the final again one day—and to show that we can do even better.”
Is the life of a tennis pro, even without a Fed Cup title, a dream for you?
“For me, yes. I wanted to be a pro from early on—even during a time when I didn’t know whether I was good enough for it. It’s a difficult life because you’re always far away and have to travel a lot, which probably isn’t good for the body. But I certainly haven’t regretted it, because it’s a unique chance to fulfill my dream.”
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