By Kevin Ware
(August 12, 2013) MASON, Ohio – WTA All-Access hours can be great fun. They can also feel like the media equivalent of a rugby scrum. Don’t get me wrong, though. I love a scrum as much as the next writer. But it’s difficult to give equal time and focus to the tournament’s top seeds when they’re brought out at roughly the same time.
So rather than elbow my way through the masses to reach all of the players, I chose my spots carefully and got quality time with Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, and Agnieszka Radwanska. Here are some of their most quotable moments.
The Tireless and Inspirational Serena
Though Serena Williams can be a fiery competitor on the court, she often comes across as very subdued in the press room. But then again, we’re usually talking to her after another victory and ensuing travel. So she can easily be forgiven for low energy in the press room after such dominating victories, such as her Toronto win over Sorana Cirstea.
On the difference between last year’s long Olympic season and this year’s long season due to match wins:
“I don’t feel fatigued this year even though I’m doing well. At the Olympics I was still on a high, and really into the moment. I was still up from that.”
“I feel motivated and I feel happy. I’m definitely feeling healthy. And hopefully I’ll be able to continue.”
On the inspiration she uses to stay so motivated that can help others:
“For me, one thing that I always think, ‘Is there a way I could do better?’ and if the answer is yes I strive to go through that door. And if the answer is no then it’ll be time to rethink what I’m doing.” So she hasn’t hit too many times where ‘No’ might have been the answer? “Not yet, thankfully.”
Radwanska’s Feeling Good and Looking for New Thrills
In spite of the incredible amount of tennis that Radwanska has played this summer (including her semifinal appearance at Wimbledon), she was relaxed, smiling, and feeling good heading into the final swing of the American hard court season.
On the difference between her two matches against Serena in Miami and Toronto:
“In Miami, I wasn’t really playing bad. But she was playing unbelievable. And I really couldn’t do much.” In Toronto, she felt the surface and balls made a marked difference in the match. “It was much slower than in Miami, and I could get more into the games.”
On playing so much tennis the past few weeks:
“Yeah, I’ve had a couple of good long matches, but I prefer to play a lot of matches than one match in two weeks.” I asked if that also meant that she was winning a lot, to which she replied,”Exactly. It’s a good problem to have.”
On riding roller coasters with her sister:
“I went there last year, and I wanted to ride the biggest one. But when I went there, I didn’t go to the biggest one. Something stopped me at the door, and I couldn’t do it. So I turned around.” When asked if her sister, Urszula, wanted to go, she said “We both looked at each other and said ‘Are you sure?’, then didn’t go. I think there’s supposed to have a bigger one next year, so maybe then…”
Azarenka Loves John Legend and Watching Tennis
Victoria Azarenka was in rare form when she sat down with the press in Cincinnati, chatting and laughing as though tennis was merely a small part of her being here.
On being normal:
“I’m weird sometimes, but I am also normal. I got a shirt for my birthday that says ‘Normal is boring’, and I think it’s a motto. My new motto.”
On driving and John Legend:
The fun for Vika actually began Sunday night, singing and dancing while being driven around Mason. She heard a song that she loved so much she couldn’t help herself. The song was ‘Tonight’ by John Legend. “It’s so good. Just incredible. I couldn’t wait to tell somebody.” When I asked her if it was good enough to make her “on-court walk” playlist, she quickly said “Oh I think it’s too sexy for that.”
On what she did after Wimbledon:
As for watching tennis, that subject came up when she was asked what she did after leaving the All England Club. “I didn’t watch anything, to be honest. But I did watch the (men’s) final.”
“It was really exciting I think not only for British tennis, but also for the history it was incredible to see. And I’ve never seen Andy Murray so emotional, that’s for sure. But I was in the mood to see what I could do to be healthy again.”
On watching tennis:
I love to watch when I’m excited about something. I love to watch tennis in general. But at that moment I was focused on what I needed to do to be better to recover. And I also had lots to do with the move (to LA) and everything. And with the time difference, it was perfect (to not watch).
A Thought on the “Maria and Jimmy” Questions
Most of the questions that Maria Sharapova is asked these days, Grigor Dimitrov notwithstanding, revolve around her (admittedly) intriguing partnership with Jimmy Connors, and the ‘real’ reasons why she decided to start working with him. Judging by her generic words and closed body language, we can expect nothing outside of “He’s been there before” and “There are things he can bring to my game” platitudes. If Maria did, in fact, hire Jimmy to help find a way to mentally overcome Serena – as we all suspect – we’ll find out soon enough the next time they meet.