So, since it was Monday, that means today was WTA All-Access day. If you don’t know, that’s when the top eight players in the draw are all made available to the media for about an hour in the afternoon.
In this case, that meant: Eugenie Bouchard, Ekaterina Makarova, Andrea Petkovic, Jelena Jankovic, Sara Errani, Angelique Kerber, Madison Keys and Caroline Garcia.
— Family Circle Cup (@FamilyCircleCup) April 6, 2015
This was only my second-ever WTA All-Access hour, and it was great to sit down with the players in such an informal situation. Due to the timing of it all I didn’t get to speak much with Kerber, Keys, or Makarova, but I will try and get them later in the week.
In the meantime, here are my impressions and favorite quotes from today.
Petkovic is exactly as friendly and open and intelligent as you think she is. She shook hands with all of the media members there when she came to the table, and was so thoughtful when answering questions. She’s just a pretty incredible person to be around.
On the pressure of being a defending champion:
“I never had to go through this because I always got injured the next year (laughs). This will be a new experience this year.”
“I was a defending champion in Bad Gastein once. I won the tournament and my parents were going on vacation to Serbia, so they took my trophy with them. It was the first title I’d won and I didn’t know they always do a photo session in front of a waterfall in Bad Gastein. They were like,’Okay, let’s do a photo session with the trophy,’ but my trophy was gone! I played finals in doubles, but that trophy was so small. I took a photo with that trophy, and the next year I cam back and there was this huge photo of me at the tournament with this tiny trophy.”
On overcoming doubts:
“I do a lot of meditation, because I am trying–as an athlete you have to be very naive and believe that everything will be good at the end, because at the minute you don’t, it won’t. I am a natural doubter and I’m definitely not naive, so I know things can go wrong, so what I try to do is I try to push that naiveté into myself and try to make myself believe that everything is good. That belief is necessary to win titles.”
On her post-match hug with Carla Suarez-Navarro after her semifinal loss in Miami:
— Carla Suarez Navarro (@CarlaSuarezNava) April 3, 2015
“I missed the shot and I was so disappointed in myself and I looked down and I was about to cry from anger. Then I was like, Geez, it’s Carla. I saw her celebrating, and I was like, It’s one of her biggest moments in her life. I slapped myself mentally in the face and I said, Pull yourself together, Andrea.”
“I always try to put myself in other perspectives. I know that for Carla it was a huge moment and I really like her and she’s so talented and I think she deserves all the best that comes her way, so I really tried to be happy for her in that moment. After, when I saw her being happy in her tweets, it was easier for me to take that loss.”
Like Andrea, JJ is just like you’d imagine. She never stops talking and she’s always cracking jokes–often at her own expense–and having fun. It’s contagious.
On turning 30:
“Thirty and flirty.”
“I really don’t know where my 20s went. I’ve been so busy on the court and off the court, the time flies so fast.”
On coming back from injury:
“I had like a really bad back, where for two months I couldn’t move. I’m a very hyperactive person, I like to do activities. I couldn’t even vacuum. So once you think maybe you’re never going to be able to go on the tennis court again, you feel devastated. But then you start thinking positive. ”
“I was very empty.”
“Now I’m really good, and that’s why I’m just happy. Sometime when you’re healthy and you’re doing well you don’t appreciate it.”
“Such nice crowds, such nice people, such nice places we play around the world. What more can you want?”
On the crowd support:
“I have fun off the court and I have fun on the court. I mean, I yell. I yell at my brother, I talk to people. But the coolest thing that I get to see is some of the people that have been supporting me for years around the world. I look up in the stands when I’m losing and I see these familiar faces there and I’m like, Ohmygod, I can’t believe you’re there. They say, You did it before you can do it again. And they’re right!”
“That happened in Indian Wells. I was down like 3-1 in the third, and I was feeling tired, I was feeling like maybe I’m going to be out, and then I looked up and it gave me a new hope.”
“It’s unbelievable. I have that connection with the crowd and the people and I appreciate that support. It really pushes me to my limits, they give me that kind-of tail wind; it’s like I start flying all of a sudden even though I don’t have any energy, I find it again once I hear that support.”
I had never talked with Garcia before, and I was really impressed with her. She’s sarcastic and open and fun. And, you know, French. Her English is fine but she’s not that comfortable with it, so a lot of these quotes are quick.
On her good year:
“In the previous years I was able to play good one week, bad the next, but now every day is the same and I work every day hard to be better on court. So now maybe that’s why I’m doing better.”
On what her coach/father tells her:
“It’s always the same since I was a little girl: Keep focussed, Caroline.” (Laughs)
On what Amelie Mauresmo, her Fed Cup Captain, has taught her:
“She’s very quiet, and she’s able to take the best of every person and she’s able to adapt herself. She knows she can’t change anything in our game, but she’s just trying to say, Okay, keep going. She knows our strong points and she knows I have to be aggressive.”
“Success and being more popular can change you, but you are still yourself, bad points and good points. You will never be perfect, but you have to be yourself and remember where you came from.”
I think of Errani as being so quiet and soft-spoken, but she was pretty outgoing in the AAH. There was a lot of laughter and she was very sincere when she spoke.
On what makes a good player’s party:
“Candy is a good thing for a good party. That is very important.”
On her split with Roberta Vinci in doubles:
“I think we had many years playing both singles and doubles, it was tough mentally and physically. We wanted to try a new thing, I’ve never been playing only singles but for the moment I wanted to try.”
On what keeps her going:
“It’s very important to have the passion to make you do hard things, because the tennis player is not an easy life.”
Bouchard was as friendly as I’ve seen her–there really must be something about this Charleston air. She was straightforward as always, and while she was disappointed in her season so far she was far from panicked.
On her 6-0 7-6 (4) loss to Tatjana Maraia in her first match in Miami:
“That’s one I really want to burn from my memory. I wasn’t patient enough at all, and I let emotions get the best of me again, so it’s something I really need to learn from and move on.”
On that match not being televised:
On her new partnership with Sam Sumyk:
“With Sam, he says emotions are good, but you have to show the right ones.”
“It’s going well. We’re working hard on the court and I like his ideas and what he thinks of my game. We’re just trying to improve areas of my game and not change anything drastically. With change, you can have a down before you have an up, so I’m not worried and I don’t want to put pressure on myself to say, You have a coach, now you have to win every tournament.”
“He’s very straight up, he has that French personality, and I appreciate that. There’s no need to beat around the bush.”
“Dream big, then work as hard as you can to achieve that. I think it’s so important to have a specific goal in mind and really see it, when you go to sleep, dream about it. I’ve had that since I was a kid about lifting the Wimbledon trophy.”
On her year so far:
“Unless I win every tournament I’m never going to be happy, but I know that’s impossible.”
“I want to do better every year. One thing I wanted to work on this year was consistency–I had a good tournament in Australia, but I want to keep that up in every tournament, not only the Slams. So that’s an area I want to improve and I haven’t done that yet.”
On finding the patience to deal with down times:
“It’s hard. I have worked so long for this, now it’s been 16 years of tennis. It does feel long in that sense, so when (success) does come I’m not surprised and I take it right away because I’ve seen it in my head. But Sam says, perfection is impossible. And as much as I’m a perfectionist I have to accept that. Most of the weeks you’re going to lose a match. You have to make sure you learn from that and move on. It’s hard but it’s important to always strive for that, so you don’t relax and be happy with just average success.”