Player Diaries: Vania King after her match against Justine, and memorizing Agassi
Q&A with Vania King: Part 3
Friday, September 1, 2006
Rising young star Vania King, a 17-year-old from Long Beach, Calif., has had a breakthrough year in 2006. Currently ranked a career-high No. 72 in the world, she reached the semifinals in her WTA Tour debut in February at Pattaya City, the third round at Indian Wells, and was a member of the U.S. Fed Cup team twice this year. At the 2005 US Open, King became just the third woman ever to enter qualifying as a wild card and win a main-draw match, eventually losing in the second round to Nathalie Dechy. This year, she enters the tournament directly based on her ranking. King will be talking with USOpen.org about her experiences on and off the court throughout her stay at the US Open.
Q. Can you talk a bit about your match against Justine Henin-Hardenne. How did you feel out there? Did anything about her game surprise you?
A. Obviously I have a lot of respect for Justine. She is one of the best, if not the best, player in the world right now. I was a bit nervous before the match, but I felt better than last year, when I played Dechy on Armstrong and I was so nervous I couldn’t think! I thought I played pretty well, but playing against her is a real eye-opener for me because her game is something I would like to emulate, if not surpass, and the match really showed me what I need to work on. I was surprised how hard her serve was (because she is my size), and she consistently hits her serve around 105 mph for her first and 95 mph for her second. When the points got close, she raised her power, sometimes hitting 110-mph first serves and 97 mph seconds.
Q. So you mentioned in your first Q&A that your older brother has been a hitting partner for Justine this week, which is quite a coincidence since you just played her! Did he give you any tips on her game before your match?
A. Actually, due to a conflict of interest, Justine chose not to utilize Phillip as a hitting partner, but he is now Mary Pierce’s hitting partner. I am very grateful to him because I tell him that the bonds of blood imply that I am not under monetary obligation, and he believes me! Also, he does get up at 6:45 to hit with me at 8 a.m.
Q. Did you have a chance to use instant replay in your match against Justine? Or have you utilized it in any other tournaments? What do you think of the new system?
A. I did not use the replay system during my match against Justine, but I have used it in matches before. I think it is a very positive and forward thinking method, and it represents the tennis world moving into the future in technology and innovation. I think I have a 50/50 record because I was correct 2/2 in the first match I used it (Nasdaq) and incorrect 2/2 in the second match I used it (JP Morgan).
Q. You did an amazing job singing “ America the Beautiful” before Thursday’s night session, when Andre Agassi played Marcos Baghdatis. That must have been exciting for you! How did that come about? Have you ever sung in front of such a big crowd before?
A. Wow, I was so nervous before singing! I thought I was shaking because of the cold, but I realize it was because I was so nervous! Zina Garrison heard that I sing, probably because of my mother’s diligent work of spreading the word, and asked to hear it at the Fed Cup in Belgium . I had some songs that I recorded on my computer, so she listened to those and told everybody that they had to listen to them, as well. After she heard them, she and a few others told me that I should do the anthem at the Open. At first I was a bit skeptical because I had never sung in front of a big crowd, and I usually sing just for myself. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought, why not? I guess in a way it is like playing for the Fed Cup, except this time I was singing! So one of the USTA staff actually organized it, and then I went through the event coordinators.
Q. Speaking of Agassi, do you have any thoughts on his retirement?
A. I grew up loving to watch Agassi and Sampras play, even though I rooted for Sampras mostly! Andre is one of the greatest players and role models in the tennis world, and I think everybody is going to miss him. Since I missed his earlier and wilder days, I only got to see the poised and wise side of him. But I know his legacy will continue to live on, maybe in his children!
Q. Besides women’s singles and doubles, I see you’re also playing mixed doubles. You’re busy this tournament! How did you and Vincent Spadea decide to team up? He’s quite a character -- what’s it like playing with him?
A. Actually, there was a mad rush to find a mixed doubles partner, and after I was bounced from two or three partners, it was taking too much effort. So I asked my parents if they could help me out. My brother called Vince, and he agreed to play. We play our first match today, so I guess I’ll see what he’s like when we get out on the court!
Q. What has been the most memorable moment for you so far at this year’s US Open?
A. Well, at this year’s Open, it probably will be singing “America the Beautiful” because, until I get a few rounds farther, the tennis won’t be that memorable! Also, the crowd is great, and I guess it was a big surprise for them to hear that I sing.
Ju Henin Tamaryn Hendler Yanina Wickmayer Kim Clijsters
* Justine De Sutter * Marie Benoit * Klaartje Liebens * Kim Stubbe *
* Patty Schnyder * Dinara Safina * Elena Dementieva * Vika Azarenka * Katarina Srebotnik * Dominica Cibulkova * Ashley Harkleroad * Sabine Lisicki * Nicole Vaidisova * Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova * Sesil Karatantcheva *