|Defending champion Kiki Bertens (photo by Daniel Ward)|
Simona Halep started the proceedings, not surprisingly, by answering questions about her Wimbledon victory. In discussing what led to her triumph, she said: "I think the relaxation after winning the French Open" was a factor in her feeling less pressure, and "I felt the grass, and I never did before." Halep said that it wasn't really any one ingredient that took her to the Wimbledon title, but rather, it was a process: "It was not a secret."
Halep was the runner-up last year; she lost to Kiki Bertens in the final. In 2017, she lost in the final to Garbine Muguruza, and in 2015, she lost to Serena Williams in the final.
Sloane Stephens talked a bit about her "bumpy" season, and told us that "Being in North America is easier than being in Europe and struggling." She also discussed how she has learned to block out (and in some cases, literally block) a lot of negative social media material.
Next was world number 1 Naomi Osaka, who talked about the fact that she has never done well in Cincinnati. When asked why, she deadpanned: "The draw." She added, however, that she didn't really understand why she hasn't done well because "the conditions are perfect for me." And then she also added: "I'm just here for a good time."
Osaka talked quite a bit about her tendency to overthink just about everything on the tennis court, and how that overthinking prevents her from playing instinctively. The world number 1 is working on this issue, she says, by going out of her way to develop interests outside of tennis. "I want to broaden my mind."
Ash Barty (former world number 1) said that she took a couple of weeks off after winning the French Open ("which no one expected") and just hung out with her family and her dogs.
She also talked about her doubles partnership with Vika Azarenka. Last year, they practiced together, and at that time, Azarenka told her that if she ever needed a doubles partner, to let her know. At the time, Barty was playing with Coco Vandeweghe, and intended to keep doing so, but when Vandeweghe sustained a serious injury, Barty contacted Azarenka, who was free.
Asked about how she developed her extraordinarily good attitude about tennis (and everything else), Barty said that she felt fortunate, in that everyone in her family modeled positive attitude for her, and that she has always been surrounded by people with good attitudes.
Elina Svitolina addressed questions about her active social media life, and said that she genuinely enjoys interacting with fans, especially since most of them cannot attend tournaments. Like Stephens, she has learned to block and ignore negative social media content.
Svitolina also talked about how she has had to change her training regimen in order to allow more time for recovery, especially for her knee and her back. If one of them goes out, it's likely like that the other will give her trouble, also.
Petra Kvitova is still dealing with her injury. Her left forearm continues to swell at times, and she isn't sure why, though one of the current theories is that scar tissue is causing the inflammation. But, she acknowledged, the swelling could also be related in some way to her hand, which has never completely healed. "I'm fine," she noted. "Nothing can be as bad as my hand injury. I'm okay; it will heal."
Defending champion Kiki Bertens, who played the season's longest match (3 hours and 28 minutes) in Toronto against eventual champion Bianca Andreescu, was philosophical about that match, saying that she had played well, and praising Andreescu's game.
There was a discussion of Bertens' adaptation to having become an elite player, and not just a clay specialist. "I think I'm handling it different," she said, "but I can still handle it better. She said it was still a bit difficult to visit The Netherlands because now, she's famous, but it helps that her countrywomen and -men are "kind of quiet," and they allow her to just live her life when she's home.
The dry wit of Karolina Pliskova never disappoints. When the 2016 champion was asked how she felt about being in Cincinnati, she said she felt good, and, "Of course, there's no Andreescu in the first round."
Pliskova said that she felt confident; after all, this is her favorite part of the tennis season. When asked about her ability to always remain calm on the court, she said that remaining calm was part of her personality, that she likes to enjoy what she does, and "I just do my job--game, set, match, do the Cabbage Patch!"