Monday, April 3, 2017

Monday in Charleston: top seeds meet the press

Madison Keys (photo by Daniel Ward)
All Access Hour happened today in Charleston, and it was comprised of an exceptional set of interviews. Caroline Wozniacki wasn't able to make it (she's doing hers separately), and, unfortunately,  I didn't get to speak with Johanna Konta. Konta, though she has withdrawn from the event, was there for the media. Last year's champion, Sloane Stephens, was there, too, walking around with an unusual leg brace. Stephens is collecting shoes for Soles4Souls.

Top seed Madison Keys started things off with a firm declaration that she's not comfortable on clay, but she's working on getting more comfortable. Something clicked for her last year, she said, and I realized that " can't hit a winner from ten feet behind the baseline on this surface; I just got a lot better at building points and not panicking if the point isn't over in three balls."

She said that recently, she had an opportunity, for the first time, to spend over a month just working on fitness, and that her fitness level has increased. (As a committed sled pusher/puller, I talked with her about the recent addition to her regimen of sled exercises; she doesn't seem to like the activity as much as I do--yet; it's a love-hate thing, and it takes time.)

Venus Williams (photo by Daniel Ward)

2004 champion Venus Williams talked about how much she loves Charleston. When asked what keeps her going, she said, without hesitation, "I love winning titles." She said she has no regrets, that she's lived exactly how she has wanted to live.

Asked about Serena's Snapchat habit of asking Venus why she isn't wearing any pants: "I don't like pants--what can I say?"

Kiki Bertens (photo by Daniel Ward)
Kiki Bertens talked about how wonderful it is for her to be back on a clay court. The Dutch star said that her success at last year's French Open (and the entire clay court season) gave her a lot of confidence, but she explained that her run in Paris is also part of a double-edge sword because "you also have some expectations now, and also the other people have some expectations, and that makes it a little bit tough."

Bertens credited a heavy forehand with bringing her clay court success. She said her overwhelming success in Fed Cup play comes from loving team sports. Years ago, she had to choose between playing tennis and playing on a handball team.

2010 champion Sam Stosur, who has become a Charleston dining specialist, entertained us with a list of all of her restaurant reservations. Stosur spends her birthday here, and is a devoted participant in the tournament. We all reminisced about her stunning performance (and Vera Zvonareva's incredible racket breaking) in the 2010 final. The Australian star said she thought it was the best match she had ever played, and no one was going to argue with that.

Daria Gavrilova said that she practiced on some green clay courts in Key Biscayne before she left Miami. She said she's been working hard and feels very motivated, and she described herself as a positive person. Gavrilova, who is Russian by birth, talked about how she was influrnced by Maria Sharapova. "When she won Wimbledon, it was very big in Russia [pause] Not really in Russia--nothing's big in Russia."

Elena Vesnina (photo by Daniel Ward)
Indian Wells champion Elena Vesnina described the high she's been on since winning that even. She said that so many players were congratulating her--they were even stopping her to congratulate her when she was on her way to play a match in Miami.

Vesnina said that studying sports psychology (she has a degree in the subject) has helped her a lot in terms of setting goals and managing a long-term sports career. "It's the same thing in the life," she added.

The Russian star talked about the fact that tennis provides more opportunities than other sports to "start over" and make up for losses. But, she added, the constant travel and changes in climate are especially difficult for the professional tennis player. She said that some players eat, sleep and breathe tennis, but that she cannot be that way, and that she needs to have emotional connections with other players.

Vesnina said it has helped her to observe how other veteran players take care of themselves. "It's a bit difficult to recover, but you know how to work with this." She said it was important to "listen to your body."

I asked her if--at any time during the Indian Wells final--she was aware that she was a participant in a major thriller, and she said "no, not at all." The first thing that came to her mind after match point, she said, was "it's over."

"I was down the whole match....At one point, I felt like 'everything is against me in this final.'" But she kept fighting, and she said that when she served for the match at 5-4 in the third set, she felt totally confident.


colt13 said...

Diane, I don't say this often enough(I'm working on it), but great stuff.

Diane said...

Thanks, colt!