(May 7, 2014) The USTA held a media conference call on Wednesday with Robby Ginepri and Taylor Townsend, the Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge winners. Each earned a wild card into the 2014 French Open based on results over the past three weeks on the USTA Pro Circuit.
Here is a transcript of the call courtesy of ASAPSports:
TIM CURRY: Thank you, everyone, for joining us for our conference call with Taylor Townsend and Robby Ginepri, both of whom secured wild cards this weekend to Roland Garros later this month by winning the Har‑Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge.
The wild card was made available to any American who did not receive direct entry into the French Open main draw. The man and woman who earned the most ATP and WTA Tour ranking points in two of three select USTA Pro Circuit clay court events was awarded the wild card. This is the third the USTA Player Development has used this format to determine its French Open wild cards.
Robby finished with 80 points after winning the Tallahassee challenger. He last played in the main draw of the French Open in 2010 when he reached the fourth round, the best showing of an American male that year. He also is the only active American male to reach the semifinals of a major, the 2005 US Open, where he lost to Agassi in five sets.
Taylor will be making her Grand Slam debut in Paris. She won consecutive clay court events, the Boyd Tinsley Clay Court Classic in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Audi Melbourne Pro Tennis Classic in Indian Harbour Beach to earn 180 ranking points and the USTA’s wild card.
With that being said, we will open the call for questions.
Q. Taylor, I know you probably played three matches in a day many times in the juniors. Was Sunday the first day you played four?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: No. The year I won Easter Bowl in 2012 I had to play four matches. This is the first time I had to play four pro matches and won them all.
Q. Especially because that first match was really the key match, how did you focus on the next three? Was that difficult?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: No, not really. I mean, I knew that I would have to play another match once I won my semifinal. I wanted to win the tournament. I felt like it was important.
I didn’t really think so much about the circumstance. I just thought about what I had to do on the court and kind of focused and zoned in on that.
It wasn’t really difficult. I think my semifinals in the doubles I was a little bit more tired. But then I got up and got myself going again in the finals of the doubles. The score was indicative of that.
Q. What does it mean to you to be playing in your first one knowing you earned the wild card rather than just being given the wild card?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: I mean, it’s a great feeling. It’s a great feeling for me. I think I’m going into this tournament really, really confident. I’m playing really well. It’s just really good to know that I earned this. It was not like I was given it. It wasn’t like someone just decided to give me a wild card. It was something that I earned with my sweat and hard work.
It feels really good to know that. It gives me a lot of confidence in my match play and things I’ve been working on, so I’m excited.
Q. Robby, in a bit of an unusual circumstance, you had to play two matches on the day you clinched the wild card. It was an unusual week from going indoors to clay, two matches a day. Talk about your week, how everything progressed, what it was like when you knew you were playing a match to clinch a French Open wild card.
ROBBY GINEPRI: Definitely a strange week with rain four days. Coming into the semifinals, I think my opponent had played all three of his matches indoors, so I knew that going into it. I was a lot more nervous for the semifinals match than I was for the finals.
I wasn’t sure what to expect but knew what was at stake all week. Played some good tennis to get through the semifinals. Once I got through there, it was an easy match in the finals.
Excited to be back and going to the Grand Slam in Paris.
Q. Can you give us a run‑through of what you’ve been dealing with through the last couple years.
ROBBY GINEPRI: Yeah, a couple years ago after I had a good fourth‑round appearance at the French, later that year I broke my left elbow mountain biking, had a couple elbow surgeries and was out for a year, year and a half. Struggling to find my rhythm, find my game, stay healthy.
Obviously, all professional athletes go through injuries. How you deal with them, manage them, that’s all I’ve been trying to do.
Still enjoying the game out there. It’s a big opportunity for me to get this wild card. Definitely feel like I can do some damage over there. I’ve shown I can do it before. Eager to get out there on the red clay.
I’ve always enjoyed going to Paris. It’s a special place to me. I feel like the fans are extremely knowledgeable when they’re watching all the matches. Regardless of the courts you’re on, Court 17 or one of the show courts, they’re pretty packed. I’m stoked for that.
Q. What is your schedule now? How does this change knowing you have a European trip on the schedule?
ROBBY GINEPRI: I’ll head over next week and play Nice, a warmup qualifying tour event, then go over to Roland Garros after that. I have a week, train as hard as I can to get ready for three‑out‑of‑five.
Q. Taylor, what is your schedule heading to Paris?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: I’m leaving next week, going to Strasbourg. Play that, probably quallies. Then after that I’m going to Paris as well, get some matches on the red clay. Get over there and get used to the time change and everything. I think that’s important, as well.
Q. Robby, when you take a look now at guys like Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish, James Blake, they’re now all off the circuit. Is it a little weird for you to think about going to a major without those guys there? Do you talk to them frequently?
ROBBY GINEPRI: Yeah, it is a little strange the last couple years with them retiring from the game. Still see them and speak to them here and there.
But also made some new friends along the way. Some of the other Americans will be there to compete and do our thing over there.
Those were the three or four guys that I grew up and played all the Grand Slams with and had the success with, shared great times with. So it’s a little different.
I feel like they could have had a couple more good years left, and I’ll try to play well for them along the way.
Q. Taylor, when you look at the Pro Circuit, the USTA Pro Circuit, how grateful are you to have this opportunity to stay in the States and hone your game, play these pro events, then have the chance for a wild card into a major because of it?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: I think it’s great. I mean, I definitely think that the Pro Circuit is great. It’s an opportunity for you to get a lot of matches, an opportunity to get points. It’s great that we have it stateside. It makes it easier for us to be able to play in our home because there aren’t that many tournaments here anymore. It is important.
I think having the wild card on the line, it makes it all the more competitive, not just with the Americans, but with the foreign people who come and play as well. There are a lot more foreigners in the draw than there were Americans. So I think it’s important. It drew great crowds and was fun.
Q. Robby, my target audience is Atlanta tennis players. You said you were nervous getting this wild card. You also talked a little bit about managing the injuries that you’ve had. If you could give me a couple concrete details about how you did that, how you manage nerves, then one or two specific things you did to help get your body back on track.
ROBBY GINEPRI: I mean, it all starts with the mental side. It’s extremely time consuming to go to rehab for nine months to just try to bend your elbow, get as much range as you can. That’s something athletes are very good at doing, is separating the time on the court or field, whatnot, to dedicating their life to how they can progress in a positive manner.
Had a lot of my friends and family and close people pushing me along the way, supporting me, which is a huge step and process anytime something like this happens.
Just try to keep up with the physical strength and fitness as much as I could, doing it as much as I could without hitting some balls.
I started doing a lot of Yoga, which helped me a lot mentally, just feeling a little bit more flexible.
Q. People have talked about Americans not doing all that well on clay. What is your take on the situation? I know Serena won the French last year. In general, Americans don’t necessarily grow up playing on clay. How do you think Americans can improve their clay performances in general?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: I think it just starts off with the player. I mean, you can either love clay or hate clay. You’re not going to do well if you hate it. I just think it starts with a mindset.
It’s definitely a different way of playing. Well, not a different way of playing, but the points are longer, the sliding. It’s more physical. It’s a whole different component you have to train for.
I don’t think it’s just a matter of us not doing well. I think it’s a mindset we have to understand that, you know, it’s longer points, longer rallies, choosing to stay in there mentally and physically.
ROBBY GINEPRI: I agree with Taylor. Definitely a choice and decision to embrace the clay court experience. A lot of the foreigners do grow up on this so they feel more comfortable starting out. The way they are able to construct points at an early age, get the footing, is different than how we are raised on the American hard courts where we pull the trigger earlier and don’t construct points as long.
It just takes time. Once on the clay, to get your footing down, the experience, realize that we can play on this just as good if not better.
Q. Do you think growing up now, the juniors should have more exposure to clay, those in the USTA, academies and such in the U.S.?
ROBBY GINEPRI: Yeah, I think it’s great for the kids to get on the clay earlier. There’s no harm in that. It’s easier on the body. Takes less out of you. Not as much pounding from the hard courts that we’ve done from an earlier age. Maybe the longevity would last longer if we get out there earlier. I think it’s been moving a bit more towards clay at an earlier age over here.
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: I totally agree with Robby. I think it’s great. I think there are a lot more tournaments that are providing clay court play. Also we’re training more on clay. From my experience, we did the off‑season training on the clay because, like he said, it’s easier on your body, on the knees, not as much pounding. It’s good training.
I think it’s great it’s starting to lean a little bit more towards that and at an earlier age.
Q. Robby, some details about the elbow injury. What exactly was it that happened? Did you have to keep it in a cast for a certain amount of time? What did you need to do to get that right?
ROBBY GINEPRI: Yeah, I probably went into surgery the next day on it. Then casted it the next three days. I was in rehab right away getting the range back and not letting the scar tissue build up on it. I had a lot of atrophy happen with it, so I lost a lot of muscle mass and flexion.
I was literally going to rehab five days a week, three hours every day, not seeing any progress some weeks, then seeing big gains the next. There were a lot of ups and downs during that time.
I still can’t fully extend my left arm right now. I’ve had some left wrist issues along the way from a little bit too much pressure on that joint and the ligaments.
Like I said before, I’m trying to manage this the best I can, get as much treatment at tournaments and away from tournaments and go from there.
Q. Taylor, what has it been like working with Zina? What has she brought to your training and improvement in the last year or so?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: It’s definitely been great. I’ve had a lot of fun working with Zina, as well as my other coach in Chicago Kamau Murray. We’ve been working a lot on mental training. We’ve been working physically on the court. But a lot of mental training, understanding the game, understanding how to play the game. Basically that’s it really.
There wasn’t that much tweaking we did with my strokes. There wasn’t really anything we had to do there. It was more me getting an understanding for how to play the game. Actually what they’ve both brought to the table is mental training. The mental training has just been really key.
That’s what we’ve been working on. It’s been great. I’ve enjoyed my time with both of them. I’m really looking forward to going over to Europe with them.
Q. Could you talk about the process of the wild card, determining the winner on the USTA Pro Circuit through the Har‑Tru USTA Pro Circuit Challenge. Do you like the process?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: I liked it. I think that it is a great opportunity to not only increase the competitiveness in the 50K’s, but it’s a great opportunity for all the Americans to have a shot at something so big.
I mean, I think it’s very fair because whoever wins it earned it. It’s not like you’re given it. It’s not just placed in the palm of your hand. You earned it with your sweat, hard work, the tournaments you played. I think it’s a great process. I think it’s very fair.
I also think that it’s great that we can have that reward at the end of those three tournaments. It’s very rewarding to win tournaments, but to know we also get a wild card into the French Open is even more satisfying.
I really like the process and I think it’s really fair and I think that it’s great.
ROBBY GINEPRI: Yeah, same. Huge advocate for the wild card playoffs. It brings a lot to the table. There’s no question of who deserved it or who got it. Like Taylor said, we earned it. We’re the ones that reap all the benefits from it now, get a main draw wild card for Paris.
I like how they did it her in Atlanta for the Australian wild card shootout as well. Hopefully we continue it down the road. It’s good for American tennis.
Q. Robby, you’ve had really good results at the French in the past with a couple fourth‑round appearances. Have you set any goals for yourself there this year?
ROBBY GINEPRI: Haven’t really sat down and planned out and say I want to reach the fourth round again or whatnot. Wasn’t even on the radar a couple months ago.
It’s a huge bonus for me. First four or five years I played Paris, I lost first round. To break through in ’07 and ’08 to get to the fourth round, then 2010 I proved I could do it again, beat tough guys over there in five sets. Bring my A game over there and see how it goes.
Q. Taylor, making your Grand Slam debut, do you have any goals set for yourself there?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND: I mean, as far as rounds are concerned, not really. I just think for me I want to embrace the moment, embrace every opportunity that comes my way, and just enjoy the moment. This is my first Grand Slam main draw. It’s a lot to take in. It’s an honor and a privilege just to be there.
I don’t want to just be happy to be there; I want to compete and do the best that I can. I think if I do the right things and everything, it will take care of itself.
Q. Robby, if you do well in France, if you feel okay, what could be your schedule for the rest of the season?
ROBBY GINEPRI: I’d probably stay over there and play a lot of the grass court tournaments. Obviously my ranking has plummeted a lot in the last couple years. It would be a question of what events I could even get into. I’d be playing quallies I’m sure at most of them.
I’ve always liked playing Queen’s Club, Eastbourne. I don’t think I’d be getting into Wimbledon, so I’d have to play quallies of that. Then I’d come back and prepare like I always do for a great hard court season.
There’s the tournament here in Atlanta, my hometown event. I get amped up for that and go there.
Q. Do you think anything about the US Open?
ROBBY GINEPRI: Oh, yeah. The whole US Open Series, any tournaments I could get into and play and qualify, I would obviously love to be a part of that.
I have a lot of special memories from playing the Open. It’s always been my dream to play that tournament. If I can still continue to be there and play there, I would obviously come back and show up and execute my skill set there every match, try to get some W’s.
TIM CURRY: Thanks, Taylor and Robby, for the time. Good luck overseas.
Har‑Tru Sports, which is sponsoring the Clay Court Wild Card Challenge for the second year of a three‑year deal, is also launching a Be One With the Clay video contest this year where tennis fans can create a video demonstrating how clay courts impact their game. The contest closes on May 31st and the winner receives a trip to Palm Springs. For more information, visit www.beonewiththeclay.com.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
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