Maria Sharapova: “I was happy to be in one place for the whole month of December”
TENNIS AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2012 – 17th of January 2015. Pre-tournament interview with Maria Sharapova
Q. Couldn’t ask for a better start to the season. What caused the change and logic of playing warmup tournaments before the Australian Open, because you didn’t used to do it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I started my career playing a little exhibition tournament in Hong Kong. I guess when that was canceled, doing a tournament was the next option. I had been meaning to play Brisbane for many years. I think the first few I couldn’t play because of injury. So this was only my second time there. It was a great start. It was a good few matches for me. Felt quite good. You never know how things are going to shape up after an off- season. You obviously want to transition the things that you worked on and bring it onto the court. But I played quite solid. I did the right things. Had a tough final, as well, which was good for me to have. Yeah, and a victory at a tournament I never won before, so that was extra special.
Q. Have you worked on something different in the off-season, something you wanted to change in your game, different goals?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I was happy to be in one place for the whole month of December. I didn’t travel much. I did a few around-the-worlds in November. It was actually great to settle down. My team came down all through the holidays for those many weeks. It felt good to kind of create a base for this upcoming season. Last year my off-season, a lot of it had to do with rehab and getting myself healthy. This year I felt like I could really train and push myself a little bit more physically. I think last year, especially towards the end of the season, you saw how physical and how well everyone was moving, especially with the courts being a little bit slower towards the end of the season. I wanted to feel that I was ready and fit for the beginning of this year, try to be as healthy as possible towards all of it.
Q. How much has fitness changed in the last 10 years compared to when you came up at Wimbledon? Has the tour grown in leaps and bounds as far as the physicality?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, definitely. I think you see a lot more people added to the team as far as a fitness coach. I mean, you didn’t see that 10 years ago as much. You know, I have a fitness coach. He doesn’t travel with me full schedule. It’s a pretty limited schedule. He’s always with me during the training weeks away from the tournaments. Never feel there’s too much you can do during a tournament week as far as really setting up a base. It’s more about recovery and getting ready. But the physical aspect of the sport has become, I think, very, very important. It’s always been, but I think it’s become more important than ever.
Q. for the title here?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’m sure I’m one of them, definitely. I mean, I’m No. 2 in the world. I’ve had a great season last year, winning a Grand Slam. I think there are a lot of players that have an opportunity to win this tournament, and I’m certainly one of them.
Q. You have a shot at the No. 1 position. Is it still a big motivation for you to be back as No. 1 in the world or is winning Grand Slams at this time of your career more important?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, that was a question that was nice not having to answer in December (smiling). Yeah, I mean, look, obviously No. 1 is a ranking that every single player wants to grab and works so hard for. There’s a lot of players that have an opportunity to get there, and I’m one of them. I am, of course, determined to do that. But by doing that you need to win more matches than the person that’s in the first place. So that’s the goal.
Q. I heard many players say that the court is too quick. The weather this year is better. For you, what do you think about it?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I actually think all the three show courts that I’ve practiced on so far have been a little bit different, but all a bit faster than last year, which I actually quite like. As far as the weather, it’s been a nice week. But next week I’m sure will warm up. It’s sort of the pattern of Melbourne over the years. One week can be a bit cooler, and the next it’s warm. I think we just have to take what’s ahead of us.
Q. We’ve started to see on the women’s side these former champions coming in. What do you make from that, from your point of view?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I think from experience- wise, there’s no better person that can help you in certain situations as a coach, as a motivator, as someone that just has been there, done that. I think it’s great to see. I think it’s always nice when you’ve been through a career and you have the opportunity or you have the desire to share it with other players, to share your knowledge and experience. I think it’s great.
Q. Are you thinking about the Olympic Games in Brazil?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Of course.
Q. Gold medal?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I think many of us do. It’s quite a special occasion. I mean, very special to me just because I grew up with that culture, the meaning of the Olympics being so special. I had a great experience in London. It was my first-ever Olympics. I would definitely love to have a similar, maybe even better, experience in Brazil.
(EXCLUSIVE) The Journalist Who Spoke To The Woman Allegedly Abused By A French Open Player
Day three of the French Open saw a former teenage prodigy register the biggest win of his life.
Thiago Seyboth Wild produced a level of tennis well beyond his current ranking of No.172 to stun Daniil Medvedev 7-6(5), 6-7(8), 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, in what was his tournament debut. The Brazilian produced 69 winners to become the lowest-ranked player to beat a second seed in the first round at Roland Garros since 1998 when Mariano Zabaleta (No.213) upset Petr Korda. It was the breakthrough Seyboth Wild had wanted for so long after a promising junior career which saw him lift the 2018 US Open boy’s trophy.
Speaking to reporters after his shock triumph, the mood in the press room was one of celebration and delight until an awkward encounter occurred between him and one journalist.
“I don’t think it’s a question you should be making to anybody. I don’t think it comes to you to decide whether it’s a place to be spoken of or not,” he replied.
The 23-year-old’s sharp response was prompted by a question regarding an allegation that he abused his former partner, Thayane Lima, physically and psychologically. These allegations first became public knowledge back in 2021 but a resolution is yet to occur, casting a dark cloud over the head of the tennis star.
Beatriz Coelho Cesarini was the person who broke the news of the domestic abuse allegations against Seyboth Wild after speaking to Lima. She is a reporter for Universo Online Sport, which is better known as UOL Esporte.
“I talked a lot with Thayane and she showed me several print screens that proved how Wild abused her,” Cesarini told Ubitennis via email. “He cursed her, forbade her to wear clothes she liked, threw her out of the apartment and assaulted her.’
“Has the tennis player ever spoken publically about the allegations?”
According to UOL, law enforcement officials in Brazil have tried to issue legal documentation to the tennis star on three different occasions but were unable to do so because he was not present at the time they visited his address. Their next goal is to do so via his lawyers.
“The defence alleges that it is because of the commitments,” Cesarini commented, “But he was also in Brazil for a long time. Justice did not find him for a year. It’s plenty of time.”
Based on her knowledge of the situation, the Brazilian Tennis Federation has never launched an investigation related to the allegations or has taken any action. Perhaps even more significant is that the rumour of Seyboth Wild launching a case against Lima for defamation of character appears to be false, according to Cesarini. Lima and her lawyer say they have never been informed or summoned by the court. Therefore, the lawyer believes that allegation to be false.
Of course, there are two sides to the story, Seyboth Wild has previously said the charges made against him are “false, fabricated and vengeful.” Perhaps he has been a victim in this case with his ex-partner wanting to get her own back for some reason. However, Cesarini has her doubts.
“Nothing plausible,” she replied when asked if Seyboth Wild could be a victim in this case. “The Public Prosecutor’s Office in Rio de Janeiro decided to file a complaint for domestic violence after analyzing a series of evidence. It is serious.”
This is not the first time that a tennis player has been accused of domestic abuse with another notable example being that of Alexander Zverev who was accused of abusing his former partner Olya Sharypova. The ATP subsequently launched a lengthy investigation centered around an incident that took place at the 2019 Shanghai Masters. Investigators also looked at purported misconduct at other locations such as Geneva (Laver Cup) and New York (where Sharypova said she tried to commit suicide by injecting herself with insulin). They concluded that there was ‘insufficient evidence to substantiate allegations of abuse.” Zverev has always denied any wrongdoing.
Seyboth Wild will play his second round match at the French Open on Thursday against Guido Pella.
(EXCLUSIVE) Ukrainian Journalist Reacts To Controversial Booing Of Marta Kostyuk At French Open
The first day of the French Open saw Aryna Sabalenka breeze into the second round but the talking point of the match occurred just seconds after it had finished.
Approaching the net her opponent, Marta Kostyuk, refused to shake hands with the world No.2. Her decision to do so was because of Sabalenka’s home country supporting Russia in their war against Ukraine. It is not the first time that a Ukranian player has done this on the Tour but the crowd reception was something that has rarely occurred before. Kostyuk was booed off the court as a result of her gesture, even though it was widely expected that she would do this before the match.
The situation adds to the frustration of Ukrainian players with some of them previously calling for tougher penalties to be implemented on Russian players due to the conflict. Something the governing bodies of tennis refused to do this as they argue that players shouldn’t be punished for the actions of their governments. The only exception was Wimbledon and the Lawn Tennis Association who last year banned Russian and Belarussian players from their events amid fear of those athletes being used for propaganda by the Russian regime.
One of those watching Kostyuk’s match was journalist Sergey Kontorchik who is the founder of the Ukranian tennis website BTU. As somebody who follows the actions of his compatriots on the Tour every week, he admits the reception given to fans at Roland Garros to Kostyuk caught him off guard.
“This is quite surprising to me. I think Marta and our players have explained quite clearly the reasons why this is happening,” Kontorchik tells Ubitennis.
“If somebody still doesn’t understand why Ukrainian players don’t shake hands with players from countries that kill Ukrainians and wage an invasive war, they won’t understand it anymore.”
Kontorchik lives in Dnipro, a city located in the centre of the Dnipropetrovsk Region which borders Donetsk. On Friday two people were killed and 30 injured following a Russian missile strike on a outpatient clinic in Kontorchik’s city.
The situation involving Kostyuk is even more surprising given the recent support that was shown towards one of her peers, Elina Svitolina, who won the Lyon Open title on Sunday.
“Not really, maybe somewhere in smaller tournaments,” Kontorchik replied when asked if he remembers any other players from his country going through a similar scenario to that of Kostyuk.
“Even in yesterday’s final (of the Lyon Open), the public was quite on the side of the Ukranian.”
Quizzed about the incident during her press conference, Sabalenka said she understood her rival’s decision to not shake hands with her. Adding that Kostyuk shouldn’t have exited the court in the way that she did. Sabalenka has previously said players are entitled to hate her if they wanted to and has called for politics to be kept out of the sport.
“I understand why they are not shaking hands with us. I can imagine if they gonna shake hands with us, and then what’s gonna happen to them from the Ukrainian side. So I understand that. And I understand that this is not kind of like personally, you know,” she said.
“I think she didn’t deserve to leave the court that way.”
Sabalenka also adds that she believes that ‘normal people’ would not support the ongoing war. This a rare statement from an athlete from either Russia or Belarus to make about the current situation.
“I said it many, many times: Nobody in this world, Russian athletes or Belarusian athletes, support the war. Nobody. How can we support the war? Nobody, normal people will never support it.” She said.
“Of course, we don’t support war. If it could affect anyhow the war, if it could stop it, we would do it. But unfortunately, it’s not in our hands.”
However, that comment has been met with scepticism from Kostyuk who has publically called for the Australian Open champion to clarify her view about who she backs in the war and why.
“She never says that she personally doesn’t support this war,” Kostyuk replied during her press conference.
“I feel like you (the media) should ask these players who would they want the war to win because if you ask this question, I’m not so sure these people will say that they want Ukraine to win.”
(EXCLUSIVE) Clara Tauson: The Other Danish Rising Star Competing At The French Open
When it comes to Denmark and tennis in 2023, the name of Holger Rune comes to the mind of many given his rapid rise in the sport which includes nine wins over top 10 players within a six-and-a-half month period.
However, the Nordic country also has a promising player on the women’s Tour who has already experienced her fair share of ups and downs. 20-year-old Clara Tauson has been constantly compared to Caroline Wozniacki whilst growing up given her impressive junior career. In 2019 she claimed the Australian Open girls title at the age of 16 which elevated her to the top of the ITF junior rankings. During that same year, she rose by over 130 places in the WTA standings to inside the top 300.
Transitioning to the women’s Tour from junior competition is always a challenge but Tauson impressed early on. A breakout 2021 season saw her claim two WTA titles in Lyon and Luxembourg. She also won a WTA 125K event in Chicago. Then last year she reached a ranking high of No.33 before injury derailed her rise in the sport.
The person in charge of trying to get Tauson back to the top of her game is Carlos Martinez who joined her team just weeks before the start of the French Open. Martinez is a veteran of tennis coaching and previously worked with Daria Kasatkina. He has also guided Svetlana Kuznetsova, Marc Lopez, Fabio Fognini and Feliciano Lopez in the past.
“She called me two or three months ago when I stopped working with Dasha (Daria Kasatkina). We have been in contact for a long time because we talked a few years ago as well,” Martinez told Ubitennis about his latest coaching role.
“She is a girl who has very good potential, really nice and kind. She also wanted to come to my academy. We started a one-week trial and then very fast we started to form a very good connection. In the beginning, we started without any conditions. Then we both felt good (about the collaboration) and started working (together).”
Martinez’s academy, CMC Competition, is located 20 km outside of Barcelona in CT Mollet. The facility has six clay courts, a fully equipped gym and even an outdoor swimming pool. Making it an appealing place to train at this time of the year for players such as Tauson who impressed her new coach at a young age.
“I first saw her when she was 16 and playing at a Fed Cup tie in Poland,” he remembers. “At that time I liked how she was doing. She won the Australian Open (girls) title and was No.1 in the juniors.’
“When I saw her practice at my academy I was not surprised (by her game) because I know she is a really good player. The only thing is that she has to be healthy and work on some aspects. I believe she has a very good future.”
Whilst there is a lot of optimism for the future, it depends a lot on how the Dane’s body holds up. A back injury ruled her out of last year’s French Open and hampered her preparation for Wimbledon where she retired from her opening match. The setbacks continued into this season with a foot injury forcing her out of the Australian Open.
It is always a concern when a player is blighted by injuries at a young age but she isn’t the only person to have experienced this. Another notable case is Emma Raducanu who is currently sidelined from the sport after undergoing three ‘minor’ procedures on both of her hands and ankle.
“I think because she is tall and it was at that time when she was growing, she was affected by a few injuries. We need to prepare her body to be healthy and be one hundred per cent confident that she can compete,” Martinez explains.
“We are not rushing in any aspect such as talking about her ranking because for me the most important thing is to recover her level and then make it better than before. The focus is to build her game, make her understand how to play tennis and believe that she can go back towards the top of the rankings.”
The work between Martinez and Tauson appears to be paying off. As a result of her drop in the rankings, the Dane competed in the qualifying rounds of the French Open. In her opening two matches, she breezed her way past Katie Swan (No.161) and Petra Marcinko (No.257). Then in the final round, she edged out Sweden’s Mirjam Bjorklund 7-5, 6-7(3), 6-2, after almost three hours of play.
Roland Garros was where Tauson made her Grand Slam debut back in 2020. On that occasion, she also had to come through qualifying before stunning 21st seed Jennifer Brady in the first round.
“We are happy that she has qualified here at Roland Garros. My speech to her every day is that we have one more way to improve. There is no pressure at all because she is out of the top 100. This is just the beginning and little by little I am seeing nice things that we are doing in practice she is using on the court for matches.”Carlos Martinez
The trio of victories is undoubtedly a massive boost but back home her achievements have been overshadowed by her friend and former doubles partner Rune. Together they won the Danish Under-12s mixed doubles tournament. They will reunite later this year to play in the Hopman Cup which is taking place after Wimbledon.
“The fact Rune is doing so well is a good motivation for her,” Martinez believes. “They are different players and personalities but they can both become very, very good. It’s good for her to have a friend on the Tour who she can share experiences with.”
“She’s the kind of player who can do everything when it comes to attack. She has a huge forehand, one of the best that I have ever seen. She serves good and has a good backhand.” He added.
Regardless of how Tauson performs in her first round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich in Paris, her new coach admits she needs to work on improving her defensive game. Should this and a few other adjustments be made, the sky’s the limit in Matinez’s eyes.
“Her level for sure one day can be top 20. She is very young and has very good weapons. I’m sure she can be very good. As for when I have no idea because I am not magic. I hope I’m going to be with her for a very long time and see how successful she will become.” He concluded.
Tauson will play her first round match on Sunday.
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