Li Na: “You know, for my dream after retire, I want be housewife” - UBITENNIS
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Li Na: “You know, for my dream after retire, I want be housewife”

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TENNIS WIMBLEDON 2014 – 25th of June. L. Na d. Y Meusburger 6-2, 6-2. An interview with Li Na

Q. Do you see yourself going all the way to the finals?

LI NA: Easy to say, tough to do. You know, this is tennis. You are pretty easy to think about second week. But for me, if I want to push myself, at least I have to win another match and to come to the second week and then to think about.

 

Q. The first set of your first round was shaky. Since then do you feel calmer, more comfortable?

LI NA: I think second round was better because at least I already have one match.

First round I already have one month didn’t play any match before, so was little bit, how you say, didn’t know what happen on the court. But second match you know which way you hit the ball, what happen, how’s it going.

 

Q. You have a journalism degree?

LI NA: You are right.

 

Q. Do you ever sit up there and think about if you were sitting here you’d ask better questions?

LI NA: You know, for my dream after retire, I want be housewife. So I don’t think I have chance to ask the question, you know, for other athlete.

 

Q. Do you have a burning desire to be a journalist after you get done?

LI NA: Actually before I come to learn, I want to know what happen. Because before I didn’t have good communication with some journalists. I don’t know what happen. But after I think this is about personality. It’s not only about how is the university.

Because some journalists, they will ask the question pretty I don’t know. I don’t know how to answer.

 

Q. Were you a little concerned about the number of unforced errors you made today, 21 I think?

LI NA: But I hit a lot of winner, right?

 

Q. You had 33 winners. But 21 is a lot of unforced errors from you.

LI NA: If you want to play more aggressive, this is the normal way. If you play defense, of course you will less mistake, but you can have a lot of winner.

 

Q. What are your thoughts about being the No. 2 seed but being put on the outer courts?

LI NA: I like to be the first match. Yesterday they showed the Centre Court and Court 1, the schedule on the TV. I say, Go call the schedule. Maybe I was play first, at 11:30.

I love to be the first match. You don’t have to wait. If they put you in like fourth or last match, you have to wait for the match. Whole day you couldn’t do anything.

 

Q. Doesn’t bother you to be on a smaller court?

LI NA: No. Doesn’t matter. I like to be first.

 

Q. You’re having more fun with Carlos as your coach and your husband kind of along? Is that easier for you?

LI NA: Yeah, much, much easier. The husband as the coach is very tough to find balance between, yeah.

 

Q. Has he stopped snoring?

LI NA: Getting better, yeah.

 

Q. You play Barbora Zahlavova Strycova next. Do you have thoughts on that match?

LI NA: I think the last time we meet was like in the clay court. I know she was pretty smart player. Pretty flat. I think it’s good for her to play on the grass court.

For me, I think I just play my game, play more aggressive, as much as I can come to the net, follow the plan, yeah.

 

Q. Which is your favorite, grass or clay?

LI NA: Hard court (laughter).

Grand Slam

EXCLUSIVE: Ana Ivanovic’s 2024 French Open Picks

The former world No.1 tells Ubitennis her favourites for this year’s title, what underdogs to look out for and speaks about Dominic Thiem’s farewell.

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Ana Ivanovic pictured with the 2008 French Open trophy (image via https://x.com/anaivanovic)

16 years have passed since Ana Ivanovic was the player lifting the French Open trophy. 

In 2008, the Serbian socred back-to-back wins over Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina en route to the first and only Grand Slam title of her career. At the French Open, Ivanovic won more matches (37) than at any other major event and was also runner-up in 2007 to Justine Henin. 

Now retired from the sport, the 36-year-old continues to keep an eye on what is happening on the Tour in both the men’s and women’s events. So what does she think about this year’s French Open? 

The women’s draw – Is the title Swiatek’s to lose?

Iga Swiatek is targeting a fourth title in Paris which would make her only the fourth female player to achieve this milestone in the Open Era. The Pole is currently on a 12-match winning streak after claiming titles in Madrid and Rome. As for those who are the biggest threat to her, Ivanovic has two names in her mind. 

“I think the biggest threat is Ayna Sabalenka – they (her and Swiatek) played an amazing match in Madrid. It was a very tight one. And Elena Rybakina even though clay is probably not her favourite surface,” Ivanovic tells Ubitennis via email. 

Another player Ivanovic tips as a dark horse is Danielle Collins, who is playing the last season of her career. Since January she already rocketed up the rankings from 54th position to 12th, winning the biggest trophy of her career in Miami. On clay, she won the Charleston Open and more recently reached the semi-finals in Rome. 

“Danielle Collins had an amazing tournament winning back-to-back Miami and Charleston and also playing well in Rome again. I think she is a dark horse for the French Open.” She said.
“She seems to play very freely and enjoy herself out there. She has been in very good form this year, winning a lot of matches. She has a big chance to come far into the second week of the French Open.”

The last player ranked outside the top 10 to win Paris was Barbora Krejcikova in 2021 and the last American to do so was Serena Williams in 2015. 

As for other contenders, Ivanovic hopes a rising star of the sport will perform well. 

“I think now in women’s tennis we see more similar faces in the semifinals and finals. But I would really like to see Mirra Andreeva go far.” She commented about the Russian 17-year-old, who is currently ranked 38th in the world. 

The men’s draw – will Djokovic regain his form in time?

It can be argued with good reason that the men’s draw is the most open it has been in recent editions. Defending champion Novak Djokovic is still to win a title this year and experienced a turbulent time in Rome where he received a blow to the head during a freak accident. Meanwhile, Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz have been hindered by injury setbacks in recent weeks with both of them missing the last Masters event. 

“There have been a lot of new players in the last few weeks reaching far in the tournaments and beating some top players,” Ivanovic said about the state of men’s tennis.
So we are going to see many new faces on the men’s side. Of course Novak is still the strongest contestant for the title, but also Alcaraz and Sinner.”
“Novak had a little bit tougher clay court season so far than usual, but I think he is for sure peaking his full form for the French Open.”

As for the ‘strongest contestant’, the former world No.1 picks Djokovic and Alcaraz. Although there is a chance of a new Grand Slam champion. So who would Ivanovic pick for glory out of Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Casper Ruud?

“Out of the other 3, I would pick Zverev as the highest chance to win the French Open.” She replied.

Thiem’s Paris Swamsong 

Beside chasing for glory, one of the storylines of this year’s event will be the depature of Dominic Thiem who will play in Roland Garros for the last time before retiring later this year. The two-time finalist is playing in the qualifying draw after being controversially denied a wildcard. Whilst some ruled the decision as unfair, Thiem later said he has no hard feelings. 

“Honestly I had a long time to be in a good ranking,” he told reporters earlier this week. “I had enough tournaments and enough time to climb up the ranking and I didn’t do it, so I kind of didn’t deserve it and that’s fine. I had 10 main draw appearances in the last years so that’s more than enough.”

The former US Open champion has been praised by Ivanovic who says it is ‘always great’ to watch him play. Ivanovic played her last Tour-level match in 2016 which was the same year Thiem reached his first of four French Open semi-finals. 

“Dominic had a great career and it’s been always great to watch him play,” she said. 
“It has been very unfortunate with his injuries the last years so it has been tough years for him. I really hope he can do well at the French Open and has a nice farewell.”

During her career, Ivanovic played in 48 Grand Slam main draws and won 15 WTA titles. She held the No.1 ranking for 12 weeks during 2008. 

The French Open main draw will get underway on Sunday. 

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EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Marian Vajda, Djokovic’s longtime coach: “Sinner is the strongest, but Novak isn’t done winning yet”

Marian Vajda gives an exclusive to Ubitennis about the current state of tennis and his role at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy.

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Novak Djokovic and Marian Vajda - Rolex Paris Masters 2018 (photo @Sport Vision, Chryslène Caillaud)

“After 15 years with Djokovic I lost my motivation, now I’m less involved when I watch him” Vajda tells us at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy: “I don’t miss the life I had before, I’ve found serenity with my non-profit organization. His split-up with Ivanisevic? I read about it in the papers, I didn’t expect it.”

by Margherita Sciaulino

Marian Vajda and Novak Djokovic, together, won 85 titles in 15 years, including 20 Grand Slams and 37 Masters 1000, and with the Slovak coach by his side, Djokovic was on the throne as world No. 1 for 361 weeks. When Goran Ivanisevic joined the team in June 2019, Vajda had taken a step back, saying he wanted to spend more time close to his family, then eventually quit the Serbian’s team for good in February 2022. He was starting to lack the energy required by such a demanding job and, still today, he does not regret his decision.

Vajda is currently at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy where he is following some of the talented young players mentored by his non-profit organization: “HRAJME TENIS SLOVENSKO”.

He is keen to point out that it is not an academy but an organization whose mission consists in financing and supporting children aged 10 to 15 who are interested in the world of tennis. It’s not just about talented kids, it’s also about less talented players. The second, but not least goal of the organization is to train new teachers to become all-round coaches. This project had kicked off when Vajda was still at Djokovic’s side, but today represents his life.

Through this mission, Marian Vajda has found peace: he continues doing what he most loves, without stress and close to his family. Just as the Monte-Carlo Masters is about to get under way, just a few kilometres away from our table, we had a talk about what is happening among today’s top players.

Ubitennis: There’s quite a difference between coaching the world No. 1 and young guys. Do you miss being the coach of a top player?

Vajda:Yes, the difference is really huge. I had already started working with this non-profit organization while I was still working with Novak four years ago. So it’s not a novelty of the last year, I had been thinking about it for a long time. The 15 years together with Djokovic were very intense, I spent a lot of energy, when I parted ways with him I tried to continue for a year with Alex Molcan (top 50) but I realized that something was missing. I was less motivated, I wanted to be closer to my family and I preferred to help young boys enter the world of tennis in Slovakia, in Bratislava. With this organization I found my serenity. So today I can say that I don’t miss it. But I always enjoy following Novak, I stay up to date with all the news about him and I continue watching him. But obviously I’m not as involved as I was before.”

Ubitennis: Which was the hardest aspect of being Djokovic’s coach?

Vajda:We were always on the move, from one continent to another. I always had to say goodbye to my family without knowing how long I would be away and the pressure in tournaments was very strong, even for me. You know, in tennis, the coach is constantly under scrutiny. The pressure of this sport is exhausting even for the coach. In football when a team loses, it’s never the fault of a single individual, you don’t go and look at how the coach worked every time to prepare for that game. Whereas when a tennis player loses, the coach is immediately questioned.”

Ubitennis: How did you manage to find the right stimuli to start something so different?

Vajda:It happened in a very natural way. Seeing these guys get more and more committed and passionate made me so happy… the stimulus was simply that.”

Ubitennis: In your opinion, who is the strongest player today?

Vajda:I would say Jannik Sinner. In the last year he has played some really impressive tennis and he’s continuing to improve, keeping the level high. I think he’s the clear favorite to become No. 1 in the world. I also find Alcaraz is very strong, but Sinner at the moment is definitely the most likely to get to the top.”

Ubitennis: At first, everyone thought that Djokovic would find new motivation from players like Sinner and Alcaraz to keep winning, but in the last period the general impression has changed. Do you think Djokovic is taking a step back?

Vajda:I think Novak is trying to adapt and find the right balance. He can’t imagine playing all the tournaments like he used to. The ATP calendar is too intense, he has to make choices. The greatest motivation for him is the Slams and the Olympics. So he has to find the time to prepare, to train well, but he can’t put the same focus on the other tournaments as well. The real question, I think, is whether this new method will still succeed in making him win. Because if you play fewer tournaments, you may arrive less trained than those who have played more than you. But Novak knows how to do it, he’s very smart and none of the new top players have his experience, simply because of his age. Also last year he missed several tournaments such as Indian Wells and Miami but then he won Roland Garros, made the final at Wimbledon and won the US Open. So I don’t think he’s done winning and this year he’s going to prove it once again.”

Ubitennis: And what do you think about his split with Ivanisevic? Did you expect it?

Vajda:Well, no, I didn’t expect that. I read about it in the newspapers like everyone else, so my opinion is based only on what I have read in the last few days. I was quite surprised because in the last few years Novak has always been comfortable with him, he was totally part of the team. Maybe the pressure that coaches have to endure, which I mentioned before, has become too tiring for Ivanisevic as well. But I’m not sure about it.”

Ubitennis: At the level of the young guys you coach today, what do you think is the greatest difficulty for a tennis player in general?Vajda:It’s very important for a tennis player to be mentally relaxed, otherwise he can’t play his best tennis. But you have to find the right balance between being calm and working hard. Every day the training program is very intense, but it must be respected and carried out seriously. Finding a balance between working well, without getting stressed, is difficultin tennis, but fundamental.”

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EXCLUSIVE: Q&A With Simona Halep’s New Coach Carlos Martinez

After working with the likes of Daria Kasatkina and Svetlana Kuznetsova, Martinez reveals details to Ubitennis about his new role.

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SIMONA HALEP OF ROMANIA - PHOTO: MATEO VILLALBA / MMO

Earlier this week at the Miami Open Simona Halep marked her return to professional tennis with a well-fought battle against Paula Badosa which she lost in three sets.

The encounter was the first time Halep has played on the Tour since successfully appealing against her doping ban. She was initially issued with a four-year suspension after testing positive for Roxadustat and having irregularities in her Athlete Biological Passport (ABP). Then the sentence was slashed to nine months following an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) which concluded on the balance of probabilities that Halep had unintentionally consumed a contaminated substance and dismissed her ABP charge. 

Mentoring the former world No.1 now is Carlos Martinez who has spoken to Ubitennis about their new collaboration. The Spaniard is a former player himself who was ranked inside the top 200 in doubles and the top 500 in singles. As a coach, he has trained top players such as Svetlana Kuznetsova, Daria Kasatkina, Clara Tauson, Marc Lopez and Feliciano Lopez. 

So how did the two join forces and does Martinez believe Halep has what it takes to return to the pinnacle of women’s tennis after an 18-month absence? 

UBITENNIS: How did you and Simona come about working together?

MARTINEZ: She (Halep) texted me and asked me about my situation. If I would be interested in working with her. Of course, I said yes that I would be open to working with her. 

Then Darren Cahill, who is one of the past coaches of Simona, contacted me and asked me if I would like to work with her. Of course, I said yes. This was my first contact with Simona. 

UBITENNIS: Simona played her first match against Badosa earlier this week. For somebody who hasn’t played on the Tour for over a year, what impressed you most about her performance? 

MARTINEZ: I watched her full match and I was impressed because she had no time to prepare. The level that she was showing was very good and she had this same champion gem, as I describe it. She was competing very well but didn’t have a lot of gasoline (at the end of the match) because she couldn’t work (on her game) the last couple of weeks. That’s why she was very tired at the end and Badosa was playing well. It was a good beginning for her because she could be on the court, happy and enjoying the process. 

UBITENNIS: Did you see any specific areas in her game that she needs to improve on? 

MARTINEZ: It is too soon to talk about what I want to work with her on. Simona has good experience and we need to get to know each other well. Talk about how we are going to build her career again which is her second opportunity. 

Then we will see what kind of things (to work on). Of course, I have an idea but I need to talk with her and agree on everything. I am a person who likes to listen and talk with the players. During the process, I will see what I have to do and it’s going to be very nice. 

UBITENNIS: After her first round loss in Miami, Simona told reporters that it was too early to set out any plans or goals for the future. As a coach, is it more of a challenge to train somebody in this situation? 

MARTINEZ: I agree with Simona that the most important thing right now is to be healthy and to recover her shape. Work well on her tennis and fitness area. Then after a few weeks, we will see what the main goals are going to be. At the beginning of her comeback, the most important thing is to be on the court, prepare well and to recover her level. Once she recovers her level I am one hundred percent sure that she is going to get the goals that she wants. 

UBITENNIS: 18 months is a lot of time to be out of the sport. Do you think Simona can return to the top of the women’s Tour if she avoids any injury problems?

MARTINEZ: I am sure when Simona gets back into her best shape she will compete with the best players on the best courts. She will be one of the players who will have chances to win big events. 

Now she needs time and we have to be patient. But with this kind of player when they are that good, you have to be ready for any result. The ambition Simona has is going to be very important for her to get the goals that she wants. 

UBITENNIS: You have worked with Kasatkina, Kuznetsova, Tauson etc. Is there anything about Simona that makes her different? 

MARTINEZ: All of those players have good things and these things make them different. Simona is also similar but at the same time different. 

Kuznetsova is a Grand Slam champion, and Simona is a double Grand Slam champion. Both of them are very good players. It is a pleasure for me to work with Simona because in my opinion she can return to the top level and this is what we are going to fight for together. 

UBNITENNIS: Simona’s return has gained mass media interest. Similar to when Maria Sharapova returned after her doping suspension. Is there a concern that this could have a negative impact on her and do you have a plan in place to deal with this? 

MARTINEZ: Simona is a very smart girl. She knows she is innocent and it shows (Martinez makes references to the CAS verdict). This is going to be a good motivation for her and this is why she has been fighting to prove her innocence all this time. 

I always thought she was innocent and in my opinion, this will be a good motivation for her. She’s going to try to do her best again and she knows how difficult it is to be back at the top level but she going to fight for this. Hopefully, soon she will be fighting for the big titles. 

UBITENNIS: Finally, How has the women’s Tour changed over the past 18 months during Halep’s absence? 

MARTINEZ: The Tour keeps improving because there are young players who are in better condition. They are bigger and stronger. But it is not just about power. It is not just about running super fast. 

The knowledge of tennis is very important and Simona is one of the smartest players on the Tour. She has the ability to beat these kinds of game styles with her knowledge. She is a fighter which is a big difference between the young and older players. She has more experience, is mentally stronger and this is going to be good for her. Oh course the Tour has changed but Simona will adapt. She showed against Badosa, who can hit strong shots, that she could manage her game well. I think it’s going to be fine. 

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