United States Tennis Association Media Conference Transcript
May 11, 2015
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today’s teleconference. Joining us today on the line are Frances Tiafoe and Louisa Chirico, the winners of the 2015 Har‑Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge.
Both Frances and Louisa will be competing in the French Open for the first time later this month after earning wild cards into the main draw.
At this time we’ll open up the call for questions.
Q. Frances, your first visit to the French Open last year didn’t go probably quite as well as you had expected. What did you learn from that that you’ll take into this year’s tournament?
FRANCES TIAFOE: Well, definitely this year I’m a wild card. Last year I was one seed in juniors. Had a lot of pressure on me. Now I’m going in with no pressure. Just going to have a lot of fun, just play my game. Going to soak it all in.
Q. Could you clarify for me what your coaching situation is. I read recently that you’re working with Jose Higueras. Can you explain how that is working.
FRANCES TIAFOE: Today we had our first practice. It went good. I’ve worked with him in the past before. I think he’s a really good coach.
I think it was a smart move for me. He’s coached a lot of great players in the past. He’s also a great player himself. I thought I needed some extra information.
Q. Have you played your last Kalamazoo?
FRANCES TIAFOE: That’s a tough question. I know you love the tournament more than anything. I know you’re there every year.
I’m still up in the air whether I’ll be taking a flight to Kalamazoo in the future.
Q. Frances, I’d read that you liked some of the clay court players from Argentina. I wanted to ask about what’s drawn you to clay or what you most love about playing on clay courts, then also what you liked about del Potro and Puerta’s approach to playing clay court tennis?
FRANCES TIAFOE: He’s really the only Argentinian player I like other than Nalbandian. He has such a good game, hits the ball so hard. I’d really like to model my game after that, first‑strike tennis, yeah.
I also like his personality. He loves the game. The crowds really love to watch him play, and so do I.
Q. About signing with Roc Nation. There have been some hip hop performers who know tennis really well. What have your conversations with Jay Z been like in terms of tennis and also your future?
FRANCES TIAFOE: We haven’t had too many conversations yet. I’ve been on the road a lot. Haven’t really seen him.
I’m sure he has great expectations for me. Hopefully I can reach my goals, my ultimate goals.
Q. Louisa, obviously a battle down the stretch for you and Kat to get the wild card. What are you looking forward to for your first slam main draw?
LOUISA CHIRICO: Yeah, I mean, we had a couple of tough battles over the last three weeks. To win the wild card just means so much.
I’m really excited to go play in Paris. It will be my first Grand Slam main draw. It’s really exciting and I’m looking forward to it.
Q. Frances, do you think having been on the grounds of the French Open, not having it be totally new, will make it an easier transition to this big level?
FRANCES TIAFOE: Yeah, for sure, for sure. Knowing everything, whatnot, it’s definitely going to be a better experience.
Louisa went pretty far in the juniors herself. I think she likes Paris a little more than I do.
Q. Louisa, can you talk about the Wild Card Challenge and how you feel about the process of earning the wild card through the USTA Pro Circuit events.
LOUISA CHIRICO: Yeah, I think it’s a great idea. It’s a great opportunity for all of us as players to compete for it. Over the three weeks, there’s obviously very heavy competition. It’s nice to be able to compete and then earn the wild card.
Yeah, I think it’s a great opportunity that the USTA’s given us.
Q. What was it like for you? It was a very tight race. You clinched it at the very end.
LOUISA CHIRICO: Yeah, I think all of us were kind of playing under pressure for those three weeks. We all fought really hard and all obviously really wanted the wild card.
It did come down to the last week, which is great. I’m really happy to have won it at the end. So, yeah, I’m really excited.
Q. Frances, what do you think of the whole process of earning the wild card through the USTA Pro Circuit?
FRANCES TIAFOE: It was good. Three weeks, I think whoever wins it well deserves it. You have three good weeks, all the Americans that play, it’s well‑deserved. It’s three tough events.
I think it’s good. All the best young Americans are going to play. I think it’s definitely a good way to get a wild card like that. Everyone will compete harder knowing they have that on the line.
Q. I wonder if it makes things a little easier playing your first Grand Slam not at the US Open, somewhere outside the States. The US Open brings a whole different set of pressures. Tell me if you’re happy to get started on this journey somewhere else.
LOUISA CHIRICO: Yeah, to me, I don’t think it would really make a difference being at the US Open or any other Grand Slam.
I think playing Grand Slam main draw for the first time is obviously going to be a new experience. There are going to be new feelings and emotions that you haven’t experienced before. It’s all very new and very exciting.
But, yeah, I’m very excited it will be at the French Open. I do love the clay. I’ve had some good success in the juniors there. I’m really looking forward to playing there for the first time in the pros.
Q. How about you, Frances? Similar feelings?
FRANCES TIAFOE: I mean, I would prefer it to be the Open. I love the clay and everything, but being an American, playing at the Open, I had an unbelievable crowd in quallies on Court 17 last year. I really like playing in front of the big crowds, people going crazy for you. You play better, it’s more fun. Hopefully I can play main draw there this year.
But it’s going to be great for me to go and play in the French Open main draw. I’m very excited. Could be a good one, you know what I mean?
Q. Louisa, you’ve always said that clay has been your favorite surface. Usually someone from New York who plays a lot indoors doesn’t have that same affection for clay. Where did that come from and how does it suit your game?
LOUISA CHIRICO: Actually, I did grow up playing most of the summers on clay, which I know is rare, especially for someone from New York, because we play indoors most of the winter.
For the summertime I grew up on clay. That’s maybe why I’m so comfortable on it. It does suit my game. I play a little bit heavier than some of the girls who play flat. It suits my game. I guess I’ve always just loved it. I move pretty well on it, so yeah.
Q. Do you notice a big difference between the Har‑Tru and the red clay?
LOUISA CHIRICO: Yeah, I mean, they are different. The red clay is a little bit softer. The Har‑Tru, obviously it’s a little bit different. The courts are not always the same. It can vary based on clubs and different circumstances, where you’re playing.
But yeah, I mean, they are similar, too. Movement‑wise. They’re obviously much slower than hard court or grass.
Q. A bit of a strange question. Who would you most like to or least like to play in the first round at Roland Garros?
LOUISA CHIRICO: That is tough. This is maybe a weird answer, but I would actually like the opportunity to play Serena, just because you never know. I think she’s obviously one of the best around right now. It would be such a great opportunity to play her just to see what the level is like, how she competes and plays. It would be such an honor to play against her.
I don’t really have an answer for a least favorite. That’s pretty difficult to answer. There’s no one that I would, you know, not want to play.
FRANCES TIAFOE: I mean, for me, everyone’s good. For me, my most favorite would be to play Monfils. That would be really fun. He’ll get the crowd into it. I’ll try to get the crowd into it. You know what I mean? I think it will be really fun.
My least favorite player, who wants to play Nadal at the French Open? I mean, if I did play him, I obviously like him, but I think there’s better people to play than him in Paris.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everyone, for joining us. I’d especially like to thank Frances and Louisa. We wish them both good luck in the French.