Monday, April 6, 2015

"As an athlete, you really have to be very naive"

Photo by Daniel Ward
Family Circle Cup defending champion Andrea Petkovic talked with the media in Charleston today about the fragile workings of mindset in professional tennis. "As strange as it sounds, as an athlete, you actually have to be very naive and believe that everything will be good in the end because the minute you don’t, it won’t," the German star explained.

Last year, when she won the tournament as part of a dramatic post-injury comeback, Petkovic described herself as "a doubter." She said today that she has incorporated meditation into her training regimen, and that she is better able to use perspective to manage her more negative cognitions.

Of course, Petko being Petko, she also comically explained how she has re-framed some of her losses. When asked about how having to defend titles had affected her, she replied: "To me, I never actually had to go through this because I always got injured the next year." As for not having points to defend: "So I have a few tournaments that I just really badly flopped last year that really helped me now, ironically."

Photo by Daniel Ward
Petkovic is seeded third at this year's event, and is headed toward a potential quarterfinal meeting with 2007 champion (and 2012 finalist) Jelena Jankovic. Also philosophical, Jankovic talked today about how stress prevents so many players from enjoying the tour. "It's a game," she pointed out, while acknowledging that it's also a job. "You don't have to prove anything to anyone except yourself."

JJ also revealed how much of her ability to compete at a high level comes from fan support. Recently, in Indian Wells, where she reached the final, she was tired and down a break in a match and thought she might soon be headed home. But then fans beginning yelling words of encouragement to her, and she looked up and saw familiar faces, and she said that made all the difference. Jankovic said that she knows where her fans sit in the stands in Charleston, too--that they've been sitting in the same seats for years.

Last year, Jankovic and Petkovic played doubles together in Charleston, and probably comprised the funniest team in doubles history. Jankovic isn't playing doubles at this year's Family Circle Cup.

Genie Bouchard (photo by Daniel Ward)
Top seed Genie Bouchard was on hand, too, and said that she was working on consistency and seeing every tournament as important. Bouchard said that she's also working on managing her perfectionism.

Ekaterina Makarova (photo by Daniel Ward)
Second seed Ekaterina Makarova returned to Charleston this year with the hope of easing her transition from hard court to clay. Asked about her obvious preference for very big stages, the Russian star acknowledged that "I have much more motivation on the matches when I'm playing there." Makarova said that it has taken her a long time to develop belief in herself. She reached the semifinals of both the 2014 U.S. Open and the 2015 Australian Open.

Fourth seed Sara Errani entertained the media by explaining her enthusiasm for studying the numbers in tennis. Errani said that she thoroughly enjoys keeping up with rankings and ranking points. The Italian star, discussing the recent dissolution of her world number 1 doubles partnership with Roberta Vinci, said that--for now--she wants to play singles only.

Eighth seed Caroline Garcia spoke frankly about her up-and-down results. She said that she needs to better learn how to win when she isn't playing especially well. Asked what her father (who is her coach) says to her, Garcia said that--in all these years--his words have never changed. By the end of the conversation, we were all able to yell "Keep focused, Caroline!"

Fifth seed Angelique Kerber and seventh seed Madison Keys were also on hand, but invariably, on these occasions, we don't get a chance to talk with everyone.

On this first day of main draw play, 16th seed Heather Watson was upset 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 by Donna Vekic, whose phenom status has been really endangered lately. Watson served at 4-all, 40-0 in the third set, and was broken.

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