PARIS, France - Dutch lefty Arantxa Rus - no, she's not named after a certain Spaniard - knows as well as anyone how hard it is to crack the big time, no matter how successful one is in the juniors. Still only 20, the 2008 Australian Open junior champion has been making steady progress, though, winning six ITF Circuit titles and reaching her third WTA quarterfinal at Estoril last month. And, in beating Kim Clijsters in the second round at Roland Garros on Thursday, Rus achieved her best Grand Slam result to date; whatever happens against Maria Kirilenko in the third round, the Top 100 beckons.
We caught up with Arantxa the day after her upset of Clijsters.
How did you get into tennis?
AR: When I was five years old my older sister, Kim, brought me along to our local tennis club. I started to play for fun, but I started taking it seriously after a little while.
Tell us about your family.
AR: I was born in Delft but now I live in Monster, in the Netherlands. I've always lived with my parents and sister. My dad works for the big German company BASF, and my mom works in an office three days a week. My parents are not playing tennis, but they like to watch tennis and they really like to watch me! They've been here in Paris all week.
How far did you go in your education?
AR: I finished high school a couple of years ago. I tried to keep going with more study but I've really had to concentrate on my tennis.
What's your coaching situation?
AR: I began practicing with the Dutch tennis federation when I was 14 or 15, and have been working with Hugo Akkar and Eddy Bank ever since, and more recently Ralph Kok, who's with me here.
How do you describe your playing style?
AR: I'm a lefty with a two-handed backhand, and I play with lots of spin. I like my backhand more, but I like both of my groundstrokes. I have a good serve too; sometimes I win a lot of points with my serve.
Have you being working on any particular aspects of your game of late?
AR: I've been working on my whole game but maybe with some extra focus on my volleys and serve.
If you could steal a shot from another player, what would it be?
AR: I would take the forehand of Nadal.
Do you have a favorite surface?
AR: I prefer to play on clay.
Did you have a tennis idol when you were growing up?
AR: No, not really.
How have you found the transition from juniors to the WTA?
AR: I did well in the juniors, in singles and doubles. But the competition is a lot different. When I started playing the tour I noticed the players want to win every single point and they just don't let up. In the juniors, if you're up a set they sometimes don't believe they can win anymore. The level of competition is much different overall.
Who has been your toughest opponent to date?
AR: I would say Maria Sharapova, who I played in Madrid recently. I won the first set but she beat me in three.
What is your best tennis memory so far?
AR: Yesterday against Kim Clijsters! She's a real hero, I always liked to see her playing. It was great, really, really nice to play on such a big stadium against her. It's definitely the biggest win of my career.
What are your goals in tennis now?
AR: I want to be in the Top 70 by the end of the year, and after that my goal is Top 30 or Top 20.
How would you spend your ideal day off?
AR: I'd go into the city with friends, do some shopping and go to the cinema.
What non-tennis skill or talent would you like to have?
AR: I'd like to be able to sing or play a musical instrument.
If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would it be?
What quality do you appreciate most in others?
AR: I like people who try to always be positive towards others.
If you could meet anyone in the world, who would you like it to be?
AR: Brad Pitt.
If not tennis…
AR: I really have no idea what I'd be doing!