From The Sunday Times
July 13, 2008
Daniela Hantuchova steps out of the shadows
Tennis star Daniela Hantuchova on her love of Italian food, the fear of injury and why far too much is made of her looks
What has been your best moment in tennis and what was your biggest disappointment?
The most satisfying win was beating Justine Henin in the 2002 US Open. I had lost to her twice and like the rest of the girls on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour I held her in such respect so to get the better of her in the third-set tiebreak was a great boost. As for the biggest disappointment, I can’t pick one out because I try to view every defeat as an experience from which to learn.
Who has been your toughest opponent?
That would be myself. Most tennis players would say the same because we play an individual sport and so much of the time it is a battle against your own self-belief.
If you could have one wish to change yourself for just 24 hours, what would it be?
Initially I would have to answer just to be able to play tennis like Roger Federer. But thinking more about the question, I’ve always had dreams about being invisible and have a fascination of seeing how people act when they think nobody else is around.
Apart from tennis, do you have other strings to your bow?
I can speak several languages - my native Slovak, English, German, Italian and Spanish. I also spent a lot of time learning to play classical piano. Everyone in my family has a degree except me: my dad is a professor of computing, my mum a pharmacist and my brother an architect. I have a university place in Slovakia if I want to get back to studying.
Who is your best friend on the women’s tour?
The Japanese player Ai Sugiyama, who was my doubles partner for a long time. We won doubles titles in Doha and Rome as well as Birmingham in England. She’s very down to earth and is an incredibly sweet person off the court, but on the court she fights like a tiger.
When you were younger, who was the player you most enjoyed watching?
Miloslav Mecir, the greatest ever Slovak player, who reached the finals of the US and Australian Opens, losing to Ivan Lendl both times (Mecir also reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon and the French Open). He played with such style and went by the nickname of the Big Cat although the French called him Le Prestidigitateur or The Conjuror. When I was a girl growing up in Bratislava, the sight of him winning the Olympic gold at Seoul in 1988 was the inspiration for me starting to play tennis.
What is your favourite food?
I am a big seafood fan. If I had to choose a particular cuisine it would be a tough choice between sushi and Italian. However, most of all I love everything that my mum cooks. I’m also a lover of chocolate and for dessert I’ll go for crepes smothered in Nutella.
If there was one thing you could change in tennis, what would it be?
I speak for the majority of players when I say fewer tournaments and less publicity activities. I know the tour are very aware of the problem and there is going to be a reduction in the schedule in forthcoming years, but the amount of weeks we are required to play at the moment makes it inevitable that players miss big events because of injury.
Have you ever resented the fact that some people know you more for your looks rather than your tennis?
There is way too much emphasis placed on the way we look rather than actually just concentrating on our tennis, but I guess that is the way of the world right now.
What is your favourite Grand Slam event?
All the four majors are specific and special in different ways. The atmosphere in Australia is relaxed, Paris is such a chic place and there is an electricity in New York. However, Wimbledon is always going to be the most special of the Grand Slam tournaments because of its tradition and history. It’s a special feeling to be part of it, although maybe the tournament came a little bit too soon for me this year after being out injured.
If you were allowed to travel to any city or place in the world for enjoyment rather than playing a tournament, where would you choose to go?
Let’s put it this way. Cape Town followed by Cape Town and then Cape Town . . . but I cannot complain about living in Monte Carlo. Rome is also a beautiful city and I was very disappointed to miss the tournament there this year because I was suffering with an injured heel.
Watching DVDs in the hotel room is a favourite relaxation of most tennis players. If you had to choose one, what would it be?
No questions about this one. I’m a huge Russell Crowe fan and Gladiator is my all-time favourite movie.