Hantuchova Reveals Family Recipe for Success!!!
Hantuchova Reveals Family Recipe for Success
It’s been quite a year for Daniela Hantuchova. 13 months ago she was just another up and coming teenager with big groundstrokes and even bigger expectations. Then, in March last year, she exceeded all those expectations in spectacular style by winning her first title at the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, a victory which included a merciless demolition of the then all-powerful Martina Hingis in the final. Hantuchova had arrived.
Since then she has proved time and time again that the game’s elite is where she belongs. She followed up her success in Indian Wells with runs to the quarterfinals of both Wimbledon and the US Open, made her second final in Filderstadt and rose as high as No.5 in the rankings. Along the way she somehow managed something which arguably eclipses all her other achievements, however remarkable they were. She spearheaded the Slovak Republic’s incredible charge to the 2002 Fed Cup trophy.
“It's tough to say because it's different,” said Hantuchova, when asked whether winning her first title or winning the Fed Cup meant more to her. “I mean, I won the tournament for myself, and Fed Cup was not only winning it for me but for the whole team and for the whole country. I was happy about both results. Winning the Fed Cup, the first time for Slovakia, is always something special."
Looking back at the way Hantuchova played under Slovakian colours, ably assisted by Janette Husarova, it seems clear that she has what it takes to excel in team competition. Leaving aside her mammoth shot-making and impressive athleticism, Hantuchova is equipped with the nerves of steel needed to perform under team tennis’ unique pressures.
Hantuchova and her team hardly won the cup the easy way either. Wins over Switzerland in the first round, France in the quarterfinals (during which Hantuchova dispatched Amelie Mauresmo) and Italy in the semis set up a final against Fed Cup legends Spain.
She is justly proud of the team’s achievements, and the part she played in them and is quick to point out that eastern Europeans have a history of punching above their weight in tennis.
“I think we are all showing that it doesn’t matter where you come from, as long as you have a racket and a ball you can do anything,” she said. “I think the eastern mentality is different from the American way. It’s not easy to get right to the top of the game and we really have to work much harder to get there because of the conditions in these countries. We are very hungry to prove how good we are.
“For me it’s a big honour to play for my country because we have so many great players coming from our country, especially from when it was part of Czechoslovakia, and I’m just really glad to be one of them.”
She is in illustrious company. Prague-born Martina Navratilova, who emerged from the pre-break-up Czechoslovakia, has long been and inspiration to Hantuchova and has acted as a mentor to her.
“It's a great thing to work with somebody like that, to have her on the line whenever I need her,” said Hantuchova. “So far there has not been many things that I needed to ask her but it's great that I know that she's always there.”
But it’s another woman, perhaps not quite so famous, who has long been the driving force behind Hantuchova – her grandmother Helena, who taught her to play.
“She was one of the best players in Slovakia and she was my first coach,” explained Hantuchova junior. "She just has helped me so much because she was the one that taught me all the technical stuff. It was very important for me. I'm really thankful for what she's done for me.”
As well as giving her granddaughter a major share of the family’s tennis talent, Mrs Hantuchova also instilled a down-to-earth approach to success. That solid temperament has helped Hantuchova deal which the huge changes that her life and career have undergone since last March. It should stand her in good stead when Slovakia begins the defence of the Fed Cup title later this month.