Carina Witthöft, who won yesterday, on her season so far

Original Source: Tennismagazin, http://www.tennismagazin.de/news/witthoeft-angriffslustig-ich-will-mehr-als-platz-56/

“I want more than No.56”

Miss Witthöft, at the beginning of the year you were gunning for a place among the Top 100. Now you’ve climbed to No.56. Does your success surprise you?

I didn’t really expect it. But I’ve been practicing really well in the last few and have progressively improved my game.  I’ve really made a leap forward in training, I’m willing to try new exercises and have been consistently working on my fitness, and it shows on the court.

That’s it?

It’s crucial that you can apply what you’ve learned in practice to matches and not fall back to old patterns. And confidence is key. I built my confidence by winning a few ITF titles and therefore joined the WTA tour with a positive attitude.

What’s your ranking goal for the end of this season?

In general I don’t set myself ranking goals. It’s my aim to win as many matches as possible at every tournament.  If that keeps happening, then my ranking will keep improving.

So it’s all good so far this season?

Yes and no. On one hand at the start of the year I would’ve been very happy with No.56 at this time, but on the other hand I could’ve done even better. It’s a positive milestone, but I want more!

You’re playing quite a few smaller tournaments beside the big WTA events. Why?

That’s correct. I skipped the tournament in Madrid for example. Madrid has a very strong field – even in qualifying, where I would’ve had to compete. At the ITF tournament in Cagnes-sur-Mer I had a bigger chance to play more matches and gain more points.

That worked out well. You won the tournament, the biggest title of your career.

I’m really happy and pleased with that title. It was a great week and I’m taking a lot from it. I’m satisified, especially with the final [she beat Tatjana Maria who she had lost to just weeks earlier]. It was particularly important that I came back when I was trailing in the first set and managed to win that set. But I’m already focussing on the next challenges.

Are matches more important to you than individual training?

I think both should go hand in hand. The right blend enables an [improved] performance.

Do you play these smaller tournaments to improve your confidence by having a better match record against supposedly weaker oppositon?

I don’t really pay much attention to my record. But you gain a lot of momentum when you do well in a tournament.

But you can’t earn the big bucks at these tournaments. Cagnes-sur-Mer had a total prize money of only $100,000.

True, but I’m not playing tennis for the money. Of course tennis shouldn’t be a loss-making enterprise, but playing matches is very important for me at the moment.

What were your highlights so far this season?

The Australian Open for sure [she made the third round, beating Top 20 player Suarez Navarro]. But there were other nice moments as well, making the quarters in Malaysia or winning my first round match in Stuttgart.

You made some waves with a, let’s say dialogue between you and your father. [https://www.facebook.com/Sandplatzgoetter/videos/10153268733551639/] You complained about the crowd noises. What happened there?

(laughs) Maybe my temper got the better of me there. I hope nobody resents me for that. Tennis is an emotional sport with lots of ups and downs, and that was a down. When you’re playing in front of a home crowd you put yourself under a lot of pressure, but I enjoyed the matches and I gave it my best.

~

Translated by Katja

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Kerber on her time with Steffi Graf: “She got rid of my doubts.”

Original source:  Welt am Sonntag, page 28, by Lutz Woeckener

Nutella or apple sauce? When it comes to toppings Angelique Kerber isn’t quite sure yet. Like in past years she will decide on short notice. Before her first round match against Timea Babos from Hungary on Monday Kerber will vist a small crêpes stand at the base of the Eiffel Tower.

The 27 year old isn’t immune to the rituals that are so common in the world of tennis. But aside from a warm crêpe this visit to the French capital might differ from the usual for Kerber. After the changes in recent months a lot seems possible on the red clay of Roland Garros that she used to dislike so much. Some experts even picked her as a dark horse for the title. Nutella or apple sauce – that’s a question Kerber has to answer for the next step of her career.

For years the lefty was considered very reliable on tour – both in a good way and in a bad way. Kerber rarely suffered surprising losses, was the rock in the sea of almost tradional inconsistency that is German women’s tennis. But she also regularly missed out on the big wins against the very best. The Bremen-born Kerber stood among the 10 players for 32 straight months since the 21st of May 2012. But she also only won one tournament in this time. Just 2014 she lost all 4 finals she took part in. A tennis life between the 3rd round and the semifinals, more apple sauce than Nutella. “Maybe I should have changed something earlier,” she says today, looking back, but it took quite a few painful losses to see the need for new stimuli.

The year started in classic Kerber fashion. Quarterfinals in Brisbane, semifinals in Sydney. The shock came at the Australian Open: A loss in the first round, for the first time in four years. The downward spiral started spinning: Early loss in Antwerp, Round of 16 in Dubai, first round loss in Doha. Nothing worked. She felt lethargic, dropped out of the Top 10, doubted and quareled with herself. “Antwerp was the breaking point,” Kerber says. “I couldn’t find a way out and started asking myself: Why am I even doing this? I didn’t feel any joy or motivation. I had to change something.”

The 27 year old retreated to Puszczykowo to her Polish-born family and started thinking about the future. All the years on the tennis courts of this world, all the deprivations, missed family events, being single. Was all that still worth it?

5 days before she left for a 5-week trip to the United States she finally brought herself to make decisions. She split from her coach Benjamin Ebrahimzadeh and wrote two emails. The first one went to Darren Cahill, head coach at the Adidas Tennis Base in Nevade. The second one went to Steffi Graf, her big idol. “I felt like it would go wrong in the US, too, if I didn’t change anything” reasons Kerber. Cahill was asked to make courts available for her in his tennis camp before the tournament in Indian Wells. And she asked Graf to chaperon her training in Las Vegas. “She had often told me that I’m always welcome at hers. That she would help me.” Kerber tells.

The 45 year-old tennis icon came through on her promise. Graf, who lives 10 minutes away with her husband Andre Agassi and their two children, unpacked her racket and didn’t miss a single practice session. For three days she worked with Kerber, observed, analyzed, discussed. “Even if the results weren’t there initially I felt that it gave me so incredibly much,” says Kerber, who lost in the second round of Indian Wells and afterwards returned to Las Vegas to work for five more days with Graf.

When Kerber talks about “Die Steffi” her blue eyes sparkle and one can hear the girl from Kiel talking from inside her. “Steffi herself played with me,” she says with pride. And: “Steffi is still incredibly good, simply superhuman.  Backhand slice, nothing changed, and her footwork is just awesome.”

That Graf influenced Kerber’s game became visible after their time together. After Miami Kerber unexpectedly won on the green clay in Charleston, immediately after that on the red clay of Stuttgart. Both finals were close matches, decided late in the third set. In Stuttgart she beat top players like Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki. An extra helping of Nutella, not the apple sauce of days gone by.

The first two tournament wins on the WTA tour took ten years, the numbers four and five just took 14 days. So what exactly happened there during the eight days in the desert?

Kerber doesn’t like the question. “I learned a lot on the trip, and it simply is something very special when Steffi is standing next to you and telling you things.” Kerber describes, but dodges a precise answer. It seems almost mysterious, as if Kerber and Graf had made a pact in the desert. Nevertheless it becomes clear during our interview that during those days Graf had the biggest impact in Kerber’s head: Validation, Confidence. And the result is that Kerber on court is more patient, but in the crucial stages also more determined, more dominant. “She got rid of my doubts.”

Kerber is convinced that without Graf she wouldn’t have won these two tournaments. A role is certainly also played by her new coach, who actually is an old coach: Torben Beltz. “We’ve known each other for 15 years,” Kerber says and laughs. “When I found myself without a coach at the end of February I was a bit lost and called Torben.”

Off the court the two trust each other. They share private matters, meet for a juice or a wine at the hotel bar, play cards. “Preferrably Skip-Bo,” Kerber says. Or Backgammon. “They are rituals that help me.”

Just like the crêpes at the Eiffel Tower, whether with Nutella or with apple sauce. Unlike at the snack bar the tendency on court is unequivocal. “I have proven in the last few weeks what I can do on clay. Other players by now have a bit more respect for me. But I don’t put the pressure on myself. From the outside, I don’t care who calls me a favorite. I’m going [to Paris] with a good feeling and many good matches on clay and my best preparation for Paris yet.”

So it’s quite possible that she will be in the tournament long enough for a second crêpes, apple sauce for that start, Nutella for the second week.
~

Translated by Katja

Carina Witthöft Interview and Snippets

Original Source (Print): Tennismagazin 3/2015, Page 102ff

Miss Witthöft, you reached the third round in Melbourne, beating the No.17 seed Carla Suarez Navarro on your way. How would you have reacted if someone had predicted that before the tournament?

I wouldn’t have believed it if someone had told me beforehand. The third round was insane. I’m incredibly satisfied and happy, but I would’ve never expected it.

Do you feel you are playing in a different league now?

It depends. If I’m consistently playing my game, like I managed to do in Melbourne, then yes. Then I belong there. But if that doesn’t work the tide can turn in an instant. That’s the five percent that decide whether you are successful on the WTA or not.

Are you vain?

What? Why would you ask that?

We’re asking what you’re thinking when you see scenes of yourself after a match with your muscles tense and your face distorted?

Aha. No, I don’t really like that too much. Nobody likes that, I think. I’ve talked about that [with other player] and everybody gets mad when such pictures get printed in a newspaper or a magazine (laughs). But there are also nice tennis photos. And I like photo shoots like today.

Today you were styled by a make up artist. How much time does it take for you to put make up on before a match?

Not much to be honest. I just do my hair and put on very little make up, just mascara.

But would you agree that looks are more focused on today than in the past?

Yes, definitely. Sure, some players still don’t care much, but for others it’s extremely important. You can see that on them – often it just is too much. But in general I like it when players pay attention to their looks. It makes the sport more attractive.

Maria Sharapova unites both like few others: Looking good and playing well.

Sharapova is a big role model for me, no doubt. She has everything, the whole package is right. There’s a lot you can copy from her. Her demeanor on and off the court, her charisma.

Have you met her in person?

We’ve met, but she is rather aloof. She is with her team most of the time, has five or six people around her. But when she enters a room all eyes are on her, she almost takes over the room. She’s very tall, too.

What distinguishes the tennis player Maria Sharapova?

We’re all ambitious, but she is extremely focused, before and after every point. That’s impressive. Especially these kind of qualities one can copy from her.

Focusing also consists of rituals like aligning strings or not stepping on lines. Do you copy these kind of things?

I step on lines, they’re there. A ritual has to fit yourself. If it isn’t authentic it doesn’t make any sense. It looks silly if you copy something like that. I have my own rituals.

What kind of tics do you have?

Someone once suggested to me to count my steps after a point. I tried that and it worked well. If you’re agitated after a long point it calms you down. You just count: One, two, three…you just have to plan your steps so that you’re back at the baseline after eleven or twelve steps.

What does professionalism mean to you as a tennis player?

I radically changed my nutrition. No wheat, few carbs. I barely eat any sweets. I used to devour chocolate. If you’ve made it for a few weeks without sweets the desire for them is gone. Last year I didn’t open a single door of my advent calendar. [A German tradition that counts down the days to Christmas with a little chocolate hidden for every day.]

How important is sleep to you?

Very important. I have to sleep at least nine or ten hours, otherwise I’m very tired. But if you are on court the whole day and practice then you automatically fall asleep early.

And if a friend calls you and says “Let’s go out partying tonight?”

On the weekends the latest is one or two o’clock, otherwise I might as well forget about Monday. But I don’t like partying as much as I used to anymore. I’d rather relax and watch a movie. I’m only 20, but I’m not a college student who can get away with it, like my sister [laughs].

Is alcohol a taboo?

If we go out for cocktails, I’m ordering one for me, too. I don’t think that’s so bad. But I’m not getting drunk when we’re out clubbing.

Many young people at your age primarily think “Party, party, party!” Have you ever been really drunk?

[laughs] Cool question. No, I don’t think so. I’m saving that for my first big win.

At the German championships in December, where you lost the final 4-6 6-2 5-7 to Antonia Lottner, you were without someone from your family or a coach. Was that a conscious decision to cut the cord?

It wasn’t my first time alone on tour. Nevertheless I don’t like being alone. I prefer to have someone on my side to talk to. If it’s not going well I need someone who catches me. Going to your hotel room alone after a match is dull, I think. During practice it’s important that someone is telling me what went wrong. Alone you don’t notice these kind of things. And then you immediately suffer the consequences during the match.

When your mother Gaby is travelling with you, how much is she your parent and how much your coach?

Difficult to say. During tournaments she is probably more coach than mother. We primarily talk about the match, the tactics, the opponents and not so much about private stuff.

Your boyfriend Phillip Lang, who is playing for [the tennis club] TTK Sachsenwald in the Nordliga is your hitting partner. Who wins?

He would probably say that he wins. But the truth is: I win! [laughs]. Two years ago it was close. Back then sometimes he won and sometimes me. But by now that has changed. His serve is good, but not enough to beat me.

To complete the humiliation: Does he have to do the dishes and iron at home?

Nonsense. I’m not a witch. During the matches he is annoyed sometimes, but all is fine afterwards.

Can you relax at home or is tennis a permanent fixture even in your private life?

No, it works well. Phillip has good instincts when I’m totally annoyed by something. Then he just skips the topic.

Do you dream about matches or ponder [about tennis] before falling asleep?

That depends on who I am playing. If it’s a match I’m sure I will win, then I can relax very well. I don’t think about and sleep wonderfully. If I’m afraid, then it’s difficult for me to rest. But it’s never so extreme that I think “Shut up up there!”, thank god.

You parents have two tennis sites close to Hamburg. Was it always the goal that you or your sister become pros?

The opposite. It wasn’t planned. I played Kindergarten tennis early on and then practiced at the club from time to time. But I always got better anyway. Then I myself was so ambitious that I told my mother: “Mama, I want to practice more.” Suddenly I’m playing the Hamburg city championships – and win. Then came the first national tournaments, and I played well there, too. When the age group rankings got published and I was No.1 I thought: “Man, I’d really like it to continue like this”. But it was never like my parents thought, “Carina has been born, we want her to become a tennis pro.”

Besides competitive sports you also finished your Abitur [highest level of secondary education in Germany]. Was it difficult to balance tennis and school?

At times I was contemplating to quit school, but my parents just said: “No way.” I skipped Ninth Grade and then switched to specialized sports school. That way I was able to balance tennis and school well. When I was playing tournaments I was given leave – just for the Abitur exams I had to be there. Otherwise I could have been playing the Qualies at the Australian Open two years ago. I was ranked 220th back then.

You first entered the Top 100 late last season. Novak Djokovic said as a child: “I want to be Number One!” Do you also make goals like that? Do you tell yourself: I want to be the best in the world?

Yes, I’ve told myself that. I believe that every player secretly wants to be No.1. But I wouldn’t name it as a goal publicly. These are things that I negotiate with myself alone. If, at the end of the day, it’s just Nr.50 you just unnecessarily made yourself attackable.

Barbara Rittner, the captain of the Fed Cup Team and the Porsche Junior Team coached you in Melbourne. Was she able to help you?

Yes, of course. I benefit from her advice. Before that we’ve already always had good talks and she tells me her opinion honestly. She’s not part of my very inner circle, but she for sure is a very important person to me. I can always ask her for advice.

Has Rittner already given you some hope to be nominated for the German Fed Cup team?

Not concretely. I read a newspaper article that she wants me bring me close to it. If that will be the case I would be totally happy.

You have the image of being not very easy to coach?

I think all good competitive athletes are difficult because they have their own head. They scrutinize things. My family and I have certain idea of what constitutes a perfect practice. If someone can’t fulfill these we keep on looking [for another coach]. A good example is conditioning. We once had asked a coach to work on [my] speed on the court. He showed up with dumbbells and worked on my arms. Then we just say: Alright, Bye!

And now you are happy with your mother as coach?

Sometimes we fight, but for the moment it is the best solution.

~

Some perspective on Witthöft during the AO

Original source: Süddeutsche Zeitung, http://www.sueddeutsche.de/sport/carina-witthoeft-bei-den-australian-open-wie-eine-planierraupe-1.2314389

Like a Bulldozer

She’s adding a fresh, confident note to the German tennis camp: The 19-year-old Carina Witthöft surprises in Melbourne.  According to Fed Cup captain Barbara Rittner, “She has no upper limit”

It’s still vacation time in Australia. You notice it in Melbourne by the long queues you see at every corner. “From the sidewalk to the catwalk,” for example is the name of an exhibition in the National Gallery of Victoria close to the famous Flinders Street in central Melbourne.  Fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier is showing pieces of his “fashion world” there. Tourists don’t mind queuing for tickets.

Despite being a fashion-conscious woman you won’t see Carina Witthöft waiting there, though – that much is certain. “I need the tournament feeling the whole time,” the 19-year old from Wentorf close to Hamburg says, and that’s why she isn’t enjoying the attractions of the city, but rather dedicating herself – and that’s a positive German message in this first week of the Australian Open – exclusively to her profession.

Witthöft, who a year ago was ranked around 200 in the world and now will break into the Top 100, has reached the third round, after a bulldozing win against the overwhelmed American Christina McHale. “Of course I want to go far,” Witthöft says. It’s not unimaginable for her to go one round further.

How early it still is during her apparently promising career is illustrated by her hotel booking troubles: “Last year I had to leave my hotel because I had only booked for the qualifying week but then made the main draw,” she tells me. This time the 24th of January is the planned check-out date.

[…]

“The lightheartedness of the unknown is useful for her,” says Barbara Rittner. The Fed Cup captain is this time coaching the talent herself. [Witthöft’s] path was presaged. Tennis is the life of the Witthöft family.  Carina’s parents operate two tennis facilities around Hamburg, her father Kai used to manage Carina before they hired an agency, and her mother Gaby is coaching her. And her boyfriend, who traveled to Melbourne with her, chips in as athletic coach. Only Jennifer, her sister, is attending university, but she’s still supportive of her sister, who was crowned city champion of Hamburg at the age of 14.

On Wednesday all  Witthöft’s friends and family got up in the middle of the night to watch her second round match, “Even grandma and grandpa,” Witthöft tells us, while repeatedly playing with her left earring. You can sense the bafflement about her own performance. In the first round she had dominated the Top 20 player Carla Suarez Navarro with scores of winning shots from almost every position. She knows, particularly because Rittner keeps preaching it to her: “If you scale back by just ten percent your opponent will get back into it.”  So she doesn’t scale back by even one percent and that can, as against McHale, look spectacular. She took the break point to win the first game of the second set with a laser-like shot down the line while running at full speed. The spectators were gasping as if they just had seen an elephant in a pink dress disappear on Court 6.

[…]

Possibly there indeed is no “upper limit” for Witthöft, who is remarkably athletic, as Rittner bravely predicted earlier. And that there are difficult years like 2013 is probably part of the development process of a young athlete, who after all is still a teenager. In any case, the respect for her is growing these days. Her wins “don’t surprise me,” said Julia Görges, who also reached the third round, “but that the scorelines are so clean,” did surprise her.

Witthöft has trained with Görges several times, and they live close to each other. But deducing from this that there is a lot of contact with the Fed Cup players is wrong. They talk, but “it’s not like we’re friends,” says the high-school graduate, who clearly is the first face of a new German tennis generation. Supported by the Porsche Talent Team of the German tennis association, she gets financial support that will, despite the 50,188 Euros Witthöft secured herself in Melbourne, continue for the time being.

~

Translations by Katja

Andrea Petković on umpires, coaching situation and Fed Cup

Original source: Tennisnet – http://tennisnet.com/de/damen/fedcup/4675714/WTATour_Andrea-Petkovic-exklusiv-Da-muss-ich-jetzt-schon-auch

“I have to criticize the WTA there”

Miss Petković, the WTA tournament in Doha had a bitter end for you. What happened?

My opponent played very well. And I had injured my back a little bit.

You already were complaining about back pain the days before, but that had always gone away after on-court treatment. Did you go into the match injured or did it happen during the match?

No, it wasn’t injured going into the match. At the beginning, I think at 1-2 in the first set, I ran to a corner and then I just pulled my back.

What’s next for you now?

After flying home I will try to work with my physio to get a handle on things. After that Indian Wells is next. At least it’s a little break until then.

Before [the loss] you at least managed to score two wins against Kirsten Flipkens and Zarina Diyas – a revenge for the scandalous match from the previous week. How happy were you that this time, especially against Diyas, Hawkeye was available?

Ohh, very happy! (laughs) There were again a few close calls. I once again had the feeling that many things were ruled against me a couple of times when I served or returned really well on break point. She hits the ball out of the stadium, my ball gets incorrectly called out and then it’s “replay the point” and you have to start from the beginning. That was really annoying. But maybe I’m just imagining things when I go into a match paranoid like that. (laughs) You probably shouldn’t give much thought to what I’m telling you. (laughs)

What kind of impression do you have: are umpires not brave enough anymore and just rely on Hawkeye?

I have the impression that there a really big differences. There are really, really good umpires like Kader Nouni, Marija Cicak or Mohamed Lahyani. It has, I think, a lot to do with experience. They don’t care about Hawkeye, they call it how they see it. You believe them. And I think I have to criticize the WTA there. I thought it was really bad in Dubai that they put the best [umpires] on Center Court, where there is Hawkeye anyway, because it looks good on TV when the umpires perform well. There [on Center Court] all calls could be reversed at anytime. And on the outer courts they put some umpires that I have never seen before in my life. That means that, from the start, you have less trust in them than if Kader is sitting up there and says “It was out,” and you know, he has umpired 470 matches and he is probably right. He looks at you and says “Andrea, no discussions with me,” and then I just turn around and play on. It’s about the experience of the umpire, it has a lot to do with how he umpires a match. But that doesn’t excuse my hissy fit.

Do you regret that?

That just must not happen to me as a pro. There were many reasons. I was tired, I had just arrived from Antwerp, jet lag, whatever. But that must not happen. I was lucky that my racket didn’t hit anybody, it’s just inexcusable. But still, I think the good umpires should be on the courts where there is no Hawkeye – if they must have courts without it.

So you believe many umpires on outer courts are just in over their heads?

Exactly. Because I believe that out there they let the inexperienced ones just go at it, that’s the feeling I’m getting. Of course they have to make their experiences, but I question why they don’t let them do it on courts with Hawkeye. On one hand they have more pressure on these courts because the TV is there, there you have to prove yourself. On the other hand it doesn’t decide matches when they make mistakes, on Center Court the points get replayed. For me it decided the set, but it’s not just about me, but also in general. That’s my personal opinion about it.

Different topic: Eric van Harpen and you split in November. What does your coaching situation look like now? Here in Doha you were coached by Dirk Dier, who is also part of the Fed Cup and Davis Cup coaching staff. Is that more than an interim solution for you?

We will see. There’s a certain conflict of interest with Dirk, probably. If I’m playing another German he probably would have to sit somewhere else. So that’s why it is probably not the best solution, even though I really love working with him and I feel really with him during Fed Cup, too. He is a great coach and a great guy, so positive and nice. So that’s why I have to think about it after Doha. And then there also was Boric Conkic with me here. He initially started as hitting partner for me, but he has a great tennis brain and he sees a lot and he is really great. I want to keep him in my team. And if I could add an experienced personality, that would be great. But nothing has worked out so far. But I would like to keep Dirk on my side for some time. These two complement each other very well, they work together nicely.

Are you going to talk about this with your Fed Cup teammates and the captain, Barbara Rittner?

I have already asked Barbara, that goes without saying. I had already asked her before the tie against Australia, if she would be ok with it for the time while I don’t have anybody else, whether I could work with Dirk, whether that’d be problematic, what the others girls might say about it. Barbara said she will talk to them, not a problem, or I should talk to them. That’s what’s really great about the Fed Cup team, we are totally open with each other. I don’t know what they think to themselves (laughs), but everybody just said “Yeah, no problem at all.” And that was a big help for me, that he was in Doha with me, now that I’m lost.

The Fed Cup semifinal will be played in Sochi on clay. How do you like that?

I spoke with Svetlana Kuznetsova on Monday and she had already implied that it was going to be Sochi. I was really surprised, I was completely sure that we will play in Moscow. I don’t know why. I didn’t even think about other cities because I was so sure “Moscow, where else would they play?”. It’s a bit unfortunate for us because it’s another two hours further away and [the WTA tournament in] Stuttgart is right after it. But we are going to do it, no doubt. And luckily – that really relieves me – it is on clay, so we don’t have such a big change in Stuttgart. We’re gonna manage. It’s better than Australia. We’re slowly getting closer. (laughs)

There have been increased demands for a reform of the Davis Cup and the Fed Cup. You can see with the men that barely any of the big stars are playing. Would you welcome change?

In general I always thought the format was ok. But I always though: Eight teams in the world group (in Fed Cup) is very small. We were in the final last year – and if we had lost to Australia we would playing to avoid relegation. That’s a little crazy. But what I also noticed because we were in the final for the first time: It’s really, really close to next year’s first round. And I had the feeling that we hadn’t processed the final yet. When I went out on the court and heard the national anthem last year’s final came back into my head. And yet we were back [on court] and had to fight for survival, to not be relegated. Barbara once said that she would like a world group with 14 teams and last year’s finalists get a first round BYE. I don’t know if that can be done, but I think that would be perfect and it sounded really, really reasonable when Barbara said it.

Without a doubt you are one of the more popular players on tour. It seems like almost all players like you and you seem to get along with almost everybody, too. Do you sometimes feel like the Roger Federer of women’s tennis?

Oh God, that’d be nice if I had half – no not even half, just one fifth of his successes! (laughs) I’d sign that in a heartbeat. But seriously: I have always been very uncomplicated. I grew up in a big family, always had many people, many children around me. I might have only one sister, but we are eight cousins. It was always obvious that we shared, that we try to achieve things together. And because of that I believe that, first of all, I really enojoy these team events. And second of all I don’t see a reason why, just because I want to beat someone on court, I have to be mean to them off the court.

Something many women on the WTA tour handle differently.

Everybody has to decide that for herself. I can differentiate that very well. I can give it my all on the court and I don’t even look to ther other side of the court. I don’t care who I am playing. I just play for myself, I desperately want to win. Even if I played someone who I really like, I can differentiate that, no matter if I won or lost. I’m really blessed with being able to differentiate that so well. If you can’t do that and you notice “I’m more nervous when I’m playing a friend”, then maybe you shouldn’t have friends on tour. It’s a professional sport where you have to make decisions like that.

Victoria Azarenka and Garbine Muguruza have recently – and they were not the first ones – denounced the lack of collegiality on tour. It seems like most players do their own thing and that there is a certain amount of cat fighting. Does that bother you too?

I have to say that because I get along with all of them pretty well – with Azarenka especially for example, we are very friendly with each other and chat during breakfast or whereever – I think that doesn’t affect me as much as it does others. I chat with everybody, with some I’m closer, with others not so close, but I’m ok with everybody, so it doesn’t concern me. Of course it’s a difficult sport. You have to be tough, you have to be able to take a lot on court, and that hardens you and makes you lonely. And I believe that goes hand in hand, because you then become harder and less sensitive yourself and try to seclude yourself. That affects the private life, too.

~

Translated by Katja

Andrea Petković on THAT call

Andrea Petković: “I still can’t believe it”

From an article on Tennis Net by Jörg Allmeroth.

On Thursday morning, Andrea Petković was one of the first athletes down to the gym at the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel in Dubai.  The Top-10 player from Darmstadt has slowly been getting over her unfortunate loss to the Kazakh Zarina Diyas and is now preparing for the tournament in Doha, the WTA’s second stop in the Persian Gulf.

“I want to stick with it and defend my position at the top [of the rankings] and, if possible, improve it,” Petković told tennisnet.com.  In Doha, she’ll again be coached by Dirk Dier.  Whether the cooperation between Petković and Dier will continue beyond the current tournaments is still uncertain, but a possibility.

“First of all, I’m incredibly proud that I’m back in the world’s elite,” Petković said. “It was a long, difficult, incredibly bumpy road with many setbacks.  But I never, never, never let it get me down.”  Petković has suffered several severe injuries in the past years, but returned to the top ten with her victory in Antwerp.  Angelique Kerber, Petković’s closest friend on tour, lost her Top-10 position.

Meanwhile, Petković’s exit in Dubai has sparked much discussion on social networks, particularly her reaction to a blatantly bad call during her loss to Diyas.

“It’s going viral,” the Darmstadt native said with a self-deprecating smile, referring to her outburst on Court 1.  She even fell to her knees, begging the umpire to take back the call—in vain. “I still can’t believe that that call went against me,” the Fed Cup player said.  “It would be better if the best umpires were used on the outer courts, where there is no Hawk-Eye.  Then maybe stuff like this wouldn’t happen. But it’s part of the game to accept mistakes like these, even if it’s difficult.”

Petković looked back happily to her victorious tournament in Antwerp.  The cancelled final offered her the opportunity to play an exhibition match against former Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters.  “She’s still in damn good shape,” Petković said.  “It was a ton of fun to play against her.”

~

Translated by Katja.  Feedback and criticism are welcome; please let us know what you think in the comments.

If you would like to contribute a translation, please head to About Us to see how to do so.

Julia Goerges on Fed Cup and more

“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.”

~

Translation by Katja.  Feedback and criticism are welcome; please let us know what you think in the comments.

If you would like to contribute a translation, please head to About Us to see how to do so.

Interview with Andrea Petković before Fed Cup

From an article by Michael Eder published in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Three first-round losses  the year didn’t start well for you. What did you bring with you from Australia; what did you learn?

A lot.  Australia’s the start of the season—you come out of the off-season and I knew I had done everything perfectly: my nutrition was perfect, went to bed on time, put my whole life behind tennis, behind the training.  That approach I brought with me to Australia and continued there.  In the end, I was in the tunnel for seven weeks and in hindsight I believe that was just too much— you’re empty, you can’t focus anymore.  I have to learn to be more relaxed.

Is it a mistaken impression or have you taken the losses in stride?

In Melbourne, yes.  The singles in Brisbane as well, but then we lost first round in doubles and then—my brain is a weird thing—it started three days later that I questioned my singles match.  Then the doubts started: was it really a good match?  Should I have done something differently during preparation?

Switching off your brain, that doesn’t work?

Sometimes it does, sometimes it does not.  Then I start reflecting on everything and can’t get myself out of it.

The pressure from inside is more difficult to control than the pressure from the outside?

Yes, with outside pressure I don’t have any problems.  During Fed Cup last year, for example, we had unbelievable pressure because we knew we’d flown to Australia for this and could throw three weeks of our clay season in Europe into the trash.  It was obvious: we have to win this, we have to make the final; only then is it a big thing at home—otherwise nobody will care and we wasted three weeks for nothing.  But we were able to handle this pressure; we could use it for better attention, for the necessary focus.  On the other hand, when the internal pressure becomes too strong, when I say: “I want, I want, I want,” then I usually fail.

On the one side a free thinker, on the other side a workaholic — how does that fit?

It doesn’t at all.  That’s my biggest problem: I have a torn soul that I can’t combine. The literature I read, the art I’m interested in—all that is very liberal.  I love the abstract and modern arts; I like artists who break rules.  But then I also have this disciplined animal inside of me that has to press everything into a mold, that doesn’t look to the left or to the right.  Not being able to combine these two sides—that’s the central theme of my life that disunites me.

But you’ve pulled back on the intensity of your training.

Yes.  When it comes to physical training, I have indeed learned.  I’ve reduced it significantly, but I always find a new field to act out my discipline: nutrition, for example.  I didn’t take it to the extreme regularly; but four, five days before a tournament, I did.  In hindsight, those were indications before Australia that I was trying to do it too perfectly again.

The triathlete and Hawaii [Ironman] winner Sebastian Kienle recommends to only subordinate 95% of your life to the reign of the sport, and the training, and to reserve the rest for a relaxed attitude.  Only this way can you be successful in the long-term and not destroy yourself.

In triathlon, your performance is even more measurable than in tennis; and if someone like Sebastian says that and wins Hawaii with this attitude, then you can see how much even pure physical power depends on the mind.  That an Ironman winner says it helps him to be more relaxed and more successful if he shoves a chocolate bar into himself and weighs maybe 500 grams more than necessary, I think that’s very interesting.

If you completely subordinate yourself to the sport — what’s left for real life?

For me sometimes there’s the additional feeling that I lost two years because of my injuries and that I don’t have that much time left for my tennis career—that I have to do everything 100% now and I can do all the other stuff afterwards.  But that’s exactly how it doesn’t work.  I won’t be able to switch my mind on the last day of my career.  Subordinating everything for a goal now and then enjoying everything afterwards, that won’t work.  It’s a very important lesson for me that I now try to enjoy everything, every training, that I try to enjoy the little things, that I take some time off, go to the theater, to the museum—and then not think “Oh god, I won’t have eight hours of sleep but only seven and a half.”

Airports, hotels, tournaments, matches — is world-class tennis a bit of its own world?

That’s true for many fields, sports, acting, art—you have to pull yourself out of this world from time to time.  The same hotels, the same courts, the same people, the same journalists.  Week in, week out, everybody thinks of himself as important, and they do all have important jobs in their fields; but looking at the big picture, we’re all not nearly as important as we think we are.

This weekend the German Fed Cup team will again play Australia in Stuttgart. What’s the attraction of this team competition?

It’s fascinating to see, as an individual athlete, what a team can do, what kind of energy you put out in a community.  And it’s a lot of fun to play for Germany as a national team.

The German [WTA players], with the exception of Angelique Kerber, sometimes play well, sometimes badly, sometimes more successful, sometimes less so— that’s true for Julia Görges, Sabine Lisicki, and for you as well.  What’s behind this lack of consistency?

Often it’s injuries after which you have to work to win again, to regain confidence.  When I was in the Top 10 and free of injuries, I won three or four matches at every tournament.  Then it goes automatically.  You can’t always explain confidence—sometimes it’s just there.  I believe that behind long-term success stands the absolute confidence that nothing will go wrong.  It’s naive, actually, but you need a certain naiveté in sports.  You have to believe, like a little child, that everything is going to be alright.

Where do you see the biggest potential in your development as an athlete?

Very clearly: coaching.  In Australia, my father coached me; we’re looking for a new coach for me now.  It’s important to me that I find someone who fits me perfectly, on a personal level as well.  I want to respect someone professionally, but I also want to be challenged intellectually.  I’m not willing anymore to take just anyone; I have the luxury that my father, who is incredibly knowledgeable, has my back.  I understand that he doesn’t want to travel to all tournaments because he doesn’t want the whole family just orbiting around me and he doesn’t want to give up his job as a club coach as well—and I think it’s good this way.

What does a coach have to be able to do?

Tactics, technical training, know the other players—those are the basics.  The most important capability of a coach are personal skills: to grasp the player.  He has to recognize phases in which the player works against herself and he has to take charge in these kind of phases.  He has to be able to give you a good feeling when you’re losing it.

You’re studying politics and philosophy by correspondence. In this regard, why do we never hear anything of significance from tennis players when it comes to politics? Why don’t tennis players publicly come out against Pegida [an anti-immigrant movement in Germany that made headlines for a few weeks in late 2014]? Sport wants to be cosmopolitan, tolerant, international?

It’s true that we almost never answer political questions.  I believe the more professional a sport is organized, the less the players are saying.  We’re always indoctrinated: don’t say anything about political topics, don’t say anything about doping, all you can achieve with that is to put yourself offside.

Isn’t it cowardly to not use the big influence. . . you have as a top athlete in this direction?

Yes, it’s cowardly—and it’s also something else: it’s convenient.  There’s always pro and contra and that’s why for every political statement you’ll get trouble and reactions which you then have to engage.  And, for me, I don’t play well when I have trouble with someone.

You’re 27 now.  What’s still driving you in sports?  The craving for the big win?  To have a Grand Slam trophy in your living room?

Before I go to sleep, I see myself holding up slam trophies.  I don’t think there’s a Top 100 player who doesn’t have this goal or dream.

And what’s going to come after the career?

I don’t know yet.  I just know two things I’m afraid of.  The fear of myself, that I won’t be able to handle the insignificance once tennis is gone.  And the fear that one day I’ll have a job without challenges—and that I won’t care.

~

Translated from German by Katja.  Feedback and criticism are welcome; please let us know what you think in the comments.

If you would like to contribute a translation, please head to About Us to see how to do so.