WTA Tennis Stars: Getting to Know Andrea Petkovic
Sonyericssonwtatour.com spoke to Andrea during the Istanbul Cup, where she made a fine follow-up run to the semifinals.
Firstly, congratulations on the tournament win. What clicked for you last week?
AP: I felt it actually in my second round match against Benesova. I know she retired with injury at the start of the second set, but in the first set I played really well, serving something like 10 aces and hitting 12 winners. That was the first real boost – it made me feel I could beat that level of player. It changed everything. I think I’ve always had the game, but maybe didn’t have the belief.
I finished school, and then last year I was injured for eight months. So in a way I felt like I wasn’t a real pro tennis player. Last week I felt I had finally arrived on the WTA Tour and I’m glad I’ve had a good week here in Istanbul to back it up. Hopefully I’ve proved to myself, especially, and to everyone else that I can push on and have a really good career.
Your father is your coach – do you receive any other assistance with training?
AP: I work as part of a team in Leimen (where Boris Becker and Anke Huber launched their careers). It has links with the German federation but is not a federation operation as such. I’m working with Daniel Merkert, who used to work with Eleni Daniilidou. My dad introduced me to tennis when I was six and he still coaches at his club, so he can’t always travel with me. But he was with me in Bad Gastein.
How German do you feel?
AP: My parents are considering moving back to Serbia, but it’s different for my sister Anja and me. We moved to Germany when I was six months old and my sister, who is now 19, was born there. She has just finished school and is looking for a university at the moment. Obviously I’m German, but I always say my soul is still Serbian. Germans are generally more cool, reserved. I’m very emotional, have lots of fire in my personality. In that sense still feel very close to my heritage.
Our family now has a base near Novi Sad, and my parents in particular try to get back there as much as they can. Actually my mother and sister were on their way to Serbia for a holiday the week of Bad Gastein. They planned to stop off at the tournament for two or three days and then carry on. But they ended up staying all week and said it was one of the nicest vacations they’ve ever had!
For all that, there is much to appreciate about Germany. In light of the past troubles in the Balkan region I appreciate very much the political system, the media, the free press. I write a column for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung about my life as a tennis player. I feel like I am part of the ‘system’ and feel very rooted there.
Your favorite authors connect with what you’ve just said…
AP: Yes, Goethe and Wilde… who of course was English but shook things up. Growing up I always used to read whatever I could get my hands on and as I got older I became really interested in heavier literature, Hemingway. I really like the Russians, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, too. But Goethe and also Schiller are favorites, I guess because German is my first language and I can better appreciate the way they work with it to express their sentiments. I don’t think I could learn Russian now!
How would you describe your playing style?
AP: I’m very aggressive, have a good serve. I’m not the best runner, so I try to keep points short.
What do you think you need to improve, to get to the next level?
AP: My footwork can be improved, for sure. I’m a tall girl (180cm) and sometimes my coordination leaves a bit to be desired. And while I describe my serve as a strength it could be better too, for someone of my height.
But overall things are heading in the right direction. Last year I was out for eight months with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in my right knee, but I’ve come back quite a different player now. I’m stronger, less negative and believe in my body more. There’s a different quality to my game.
What are your goals, tennis-wise?
AP: Before last week I had said I’d like to be Top 50 within two years or I’d stop. After Bad Gastein I moved up to No.61 so I don’t want to place limits. After Top 50 it’s natural to think about Top 30, then Top 20. But you have to take it tournament by tournament. If I keep improving, we’ll see.
If you could steal a shot from another player, what would it be?
AP: Andy Roddick’s serve. I watched the Wimbledon final and I think he cried at the end too.
Who would be your dream opponent, among the retired greats?
AP: Steffi Graf. She would kill me with her slice, but she was obviously the best ever, and I’d be interested to see how my more modern game compares to that classic style.
Do you have a best friend on Tour?
AP: Tatjana Malek, who’s also German. We’ve known each other since we were 10. Last year she missed six months with illness and we supported each other. She’s not just a friend in tennis.
Do you have a favorite tournament?
AP: It might be cheesy to say Bad Gastein! I really love Stuttgart, the tournament and the city. The crepes in the VIP room there are the best.
What do you like most about your life as a tennis player?
AP: I like the fact that we have time to do other stuff. Of course there is lots of training and practice involved, to get to this level and stay here, but I also have a lot of time for myself. Say a match goes for a couple of hours, by the time I have my massage and what not afterwards, it’s maybe four hours and I’m done! I’m free to read, study, do my writing. The traveling doesn’t bother me as I use it as an opportunity to do all of those things.
And what’s the toughest thing?
AP: Right now I’m enjoying myself, but getting injured is the real worry. Before my knee injury I was around No.90 in the world, making progress, and suddenly I was down to the 400s where you are getting thrown out of everything. The danger is always there, so I don’t do things like go skiing with my friends, which I would like to do. But I need to look after my body.
If not tennis, then…
AP: I’m studying political science by correspondence through a school in Germany. I have to go twice a year. My next exam is set for September 10 and I can only miss it if I do really well at the US Open! I’m interested in journalism, but in the political arena, not sport. My dream is to have a political talk show for young people… and further into the future I would like to establish a political party.
What would the thrust of that be?
AP: I feel that in Germany the generation aged 25-40 is kind of left out. The population is ageing and the cost of pensions is rising, and this group will have to pay for it. The main political parties are dealing with this by either appealing to the conservative vote, or on the other side you have the social democrats. There’s nothing in between. This generation is very well-educated yet they struggle to get jobs – some people feel like they will spend their whole lives doing internships. It’s different for me as a sportsperson, but I have a lot of creative friends, I see what they go through and I also know they have so much more to offer.
A lot of people are thinking about this, but there is little demonstration and no rebellion anymore. Of course, violence is not the answer. Maybe if I can earn some money in the next five or six years, I will be able to put this dream onto a solid financial foundation.
And on a completely different note, what do you like to do to relax?
AP: I’m interested in music, I have many musician friends and I like going online and discovering new bands that aren’t well-known. I really like British music. I play the drums and guitar, but very badly! I have no talent but I enjoy it.