Monday, April 1, 2019

Top seeds gather for All Access Hour in Charleston

l to r: Sloane Stephens, Danielle Collins, Aryna Sabalenk, Julia Goerges (photos by Daniel Ward)
The top Volvo Car Open seeds met the tennis press today in an extended All Access "Hour" (it was two hours this year), and we discussed everything from Netflix to the ITF to jewelry designing to motivation.

"What's crucial is to really listen to your body."

Caroline Wozniacki talked about how her practice regiment has changed since she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. "I always said, if I could, I would push through anything...that's what I'm kind of known for," Wozniacki said, "but now, I just need to really listen to my body and see how I feel...."

The Danish star also said that having a change of perspective has helped her a lot--she's grateful to be playing tennis, and she doesn't want anything to stress her out.

Someone asked her if there was a turning point from when she was a good player to when she became a great player, and Wozniacki was quick to say "I always thought of myself as a great player." She explained that she always set small goals and always met them.

"I found a way to understand what a loss means, what a win means."

Last year's runner-up, Julia Goerges, said that she has great memories of last year's tournament, and that she's impressed with the Volvo Car Open because it's very rare to see so many crowds at the qualifying matches. 

Goerges has been polishing her footwork for the clay season. "I can feel that already in practice," she reported. She also said that she would consider her career to be successful. Of course, she thinks in terms of her "first career" and "second career," and said that--during her first career, "I wasn't really fair to myself at that time. I think, overall, I changed a lot. I found a way to understand what a loss means, what a win means."

"I've seen everything."

Anastasia Sevastova gave us this report on her Netflix viewing: "I've seen everything." Later, when talking about why it's important for kids to play tennis, she said that it's good for them to learn discipline and it keeps them moving and "not watching Netflix, like me."

Sevastova retired from professional tennis, then came back. Her return, she said, wasn't difficult, because she had no big goals, which helped her; there was no pressure. She talked a lot about the variety we're seeing in women's tennis these days--variety that the Latvian star has always displayed in her own tennis. Sevastova said she thinks there's more variety now because most courts are playing slower. 

When asked if she had any regrets, the droll Sevastova deadpanned "I played Doha this year."

clockwise from top left: Caroline Wozniacki, Madison Keys, Anastasia Sevastova, Kiki Bertens (photos by Daniel Ward)

"I don't want to be old and broke."

Sloane Stephens talked about how she became a tennis player: She said it was her mother's decision--that her mother attended the French Open before Sloane was born, and that she then insisted that Sloane play tennis. Stephens recalled having fun playing tennis as a child, and said that it's fun now, too, but in a different way. Asked if she's glad that her mother wanted her to play, the 2016 champion quickly replied, "I don't know."

Stephens said that she thinks we're at the end of an era, in terms of players continuing to play into their mid-to late thirties. The game has changed so much, she said, that she can't see that happening in the future. She certainly doesn't see it for herself, she said, but she believes that her tennis career will prepare her well for whatever comes next. 

As for  the state of her finances, Stephens said, "I don't spend any money at all. I don't want to be old and broke."

"It's not that hard to play doubles."

Aryna Sabalenka arrived in Charleston after winning (with doubles partner Elise Mertens) the Sunshine Double, but said that she felt good physically. "It's not that hard to play doubles," she said, getting a laugh from all of us. "it's a lot of fun," she continued, "there's not that pressure like when you're playing singles."

Sabalenka talked about the two tough matches she had earlier in the year, when she held match points but still lost. She said she thought she'd learned her lesson the first time, but when it happened again, she realized she hadn't. The lesson, she explained, was "don't rush."

"You're stuck sometimes, sliding into it."

Defending champion Kiki Bertens is no stranger to green clay; she played on indoor green clay courts for a decade when she was very young. The ball doesn't bounce as high on green clay as it does on red, and sliding is more difficult. Bertens loves clay courts, and--until last year--was known as a clay court specialist. However, now that she's done so well on all surfaces, she's recognized as an all-surface star. Nevertheless, she's glad to be back on clay, where she says she has more freedom.

"Tennis has brought so much to my life..."

Madison Keys was in a philosophical mood, and told us that what has been really important to her has been to learn "how to handle the highs and lows." 

Her advice to young players? "Just have fun." 

"Tennis has brought so much to my life," Keys said, "not even just the profession of it, just the experience and the friendships and the relationships have been so much more important."

Keys also gave us an update on FearlesslyGiRL, her organization which promotes kindness and helps girls learn how to deal with bullying, especially online bullying. She said that--rather than holding the summits which have characterized the movement (and which are costly)--the schools are now starting their own clubs.

"Your destiny is really in your own hands."

Danielle Collins, new to the Volvo Car Open, is one of the few players who came from a college tennis environment. Colloins believes that every player has the option to mold her career to her own liking, whether that means playing in college, playing juniors or playing ITF events. 

"You can create your own path," she said. "Your destiny is in your own hands." 

In her spare time, Collins designs jewelry, and is a partner in a jewelry business.

Asked about her propensity to yell a lot during her matches, Collins responded with good humor, saying that to her, it's an expression of passion that's a part of sport: "In everyday life, I don't go pump gas and go like 'Yes! Come on!'"


colt13 said...

Good stuff, as always.

Tomljanovic should be on your short list this week.

Diane said...

Thanks, colt. She has a tricky draw early on. Stephens, of course, is always a walking question mark. But if she gets past her, the Ostapenko-Rogers/Keys (I think) problems await.