Thought some of you might like to read this:
Italian Silvia Farina Elia played her first professional events in 1988, but the 31-year-old has been somewhat of a late bloomer. It was only in 2001, playing her eighth Tour singles final, that the Rome resident captured her first title. That victory in Strasbourg was closely followed by a debut appearance in the fourth round of a major - Roland Garros - at her 35th attempt.
Two years later, having attained a career-high No.11 ranking (in 2002) and another two Strasbourg crowns, Farina Elia posted a best-ever result at a major.
Having beaten world No.5 Lindsay Davenport en route to the Eastbourne semifinals the week prior to Wimbledon, Farina Elia entered her 44th Grand Slam main draw high on confidence. The great form continued at The All England Club, upsetting world No.8 Chanda Rubin en route to the quarterfinals, her first final eight showing in a major.
In the quarterfinals, Farina Elia fell to world No.2 Kim Clijsters in three entertaining sets. Despite the loss, Italy’s top-ranked player was justifiably proud of her achievements over the fortnight.
Wtatour.com spoke with Silvia Farina Elia during The Championships about the value of experience and her most memorable on-court moments.
Congratulations on reaching the quarterfinals here, in your 44th Grand Slam. Did you ever doubt you would get this far in a major?
Well, it was my goal for many years, because… it’s like when you go for dinner but you don’t eat dessert. You always feel that something is missing. So, I always believed and tried to reach this goal.
You didn’t start the year so well, so what do you put your recent form down to?
I had a lot of physical problems at the start of the year (incl. back and right thigh injuries), and then it came together with mental issues. I was starting to think, “Oh, I’m old, I’m not playing like I was a couple of years ago.” But I really have to thank my husband (coach, Francesco Elia, whom she married in 1999) and my physical trainer (Gianluca Pasquini) because they always believe in me and they’re always saying I was really close to my best performance. So I kept thinking that I could come back, and of course with hard work every day, suddenly I turned it around.
Compared to when you started out on the WTA Tour, do you put more pressure on yourself playing Grand Slams now, or back then?
I think when I was young, because I couldn’t handle it, especially when I was playing on a big court against a strong player. I couldn’t handle the emotion and the pressure. Now, I think I’m more mature and of course the experience helps.
What thing or things about being a professional tennis player do you wish you knew when you first started?
Well, how to manage all the situations. It was a long time before I met Francesco - the right coach for me. It was a very long time - I tried many coaches and I feel like I lost a lot of time. I hope, maybe when I can coach somebody or maybe when I have kids I can immediately say what you should do and not look around and be distracted by other things.
Over the years, how have you changed your training, on- and off-court?
Well, I have a team at home. I have a physical trainer, Francesco, I have a mental trainer, so we were working on specific things. When you’re on the Tour for many years you don’t just have to hit the ball. You’re looking for better shots, improvement in the physical and mental parts of your game. So we have been working specifically on different things.
Being one of the top Italian players for such a long time, did you ever wish there were other Italian players at your level to help keep you motivated?
I think it’s good to have a competitive spirit among players from one country - it helps a lot. But the other Italian players, they’re doing well. But I always look for the better players on the Tour, no matter where they come from. I’m just trying to learn from the top players - what they do on-court, outside the court, to learn. It doesn’t matter what country they come from.
When you look back over your career, what things do you remember as you favorite moments, apart from this Wimbledon?
Well, there are a few moments. The first one was at Roland Garros (in 1994) when I beat Gabriela Sabatini. That for me was very special because she was the first Top 10 player that I beat and it was really unexpected.
Another moment was when I beat Monica Seles in Fed Cup (in the 1999 semifinals) in Italy. It was a great moment as well.
Then when I won my first tournament in Strasbourg (in 2001).
After such a big achievement at Wimbledon, how will you celebrate when you get back home?
Well, I’ll be going on a holiday. My husband and I were planning one before already, but now it’s even more special.
As you’ve become older and realise tennis is only one part of your life, do you think that frame of mind has helped you thinking about your future after tennis?
Yes, I think it’s like closing one door and opening another one. I’m looking forward to (retirement) because it’s something that you have to discover. You have to start a new life and I think it’s going to be a difficult moment but also exciting. I’m not worried about it. I know that (my tennis career) is a very small moment in my life and the important thing in life is to be healthy and to be happy.