From The Sunday Times
September 21, 2008
Anne Keothavong: Still cringing at my crush on Michael Phelps
British tennis player Anne Keothavong on ducking gunfire and being tongue-tied by a swimming legend
How satisfying has it been to break into the top 100?
It’s taken longer than I would have liked and there have been a few setbacks along the way, but I’m here now and looking forward to the next challenge of breaking into the top 50. I’m proud to be the British No 1 and hopefully I can set a good example to the younger girls
How difficult is it spending so much time away from home?
I’ve been travelling since the age of 11 to compete in tournaments abroad so I got used to being away from home from a young age. I come from a close family and I miss them, especially my little brother Mark, who’s 10 years younger than me. The upside is that I get to meet so many different people and experience different cultures for a job I love to do
Tell us about the tournament earlier this year in Beirut
The frightening thing was not knowing if the fighting would spread and the threat of being shot at if we tried to cross the border. I was convinced one night they were fighting in the area we were in but the “bombs” and “guns” turned out to be a thunderstorm. It took me half an hour of hiding under my duvet before I realised it.
A few years ago you came back from a career-threatening injury. What did that teach you about yourself?
One of my favourite quotes is by Vince Lombardi: “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” I can relate to that. My knee injury was one of many setbacks I’ve had in my life and I feel tougher for it.
Recently you had breakfast next to Michael Phelps. How did you get on with him?
I had breakfast on the table next to him for 10 days but I couldn’t bring myself to say anything because I found him really attractive. The US Olympic swimming team were staying at the same hotel as us in Stanford before they left for Beijing. I was in awe of him, especially when he walked into the hotel from training with his top off. Just for the record, I was pointing out the cute guys to my coach, Claire Curran, before I knew who he was. Claire kept telling me to talk to him but I have no game when it comes to that. I mean, how difficult can it be to say “Good morning” to someone? Pathetic!
Has it been difficult to be a British woman player when the spotlight has been on Tim Henman, Greg Rusedski and now Andy Murray?
Those guys deserve all the attention they get because they’ve all been incredibly successful at the top of the game.
Your brother umpires but have you ever loudly questioned on-court decisions by other officials?
All the time. It’s tough being an umpire as you’ve only got a split-second to make a decision but sometimes in the heat of the moment the umpire is the easiest person to get annoyed with. I would make a really bad umpire because I wouldn’t be able to hold back if a player gave me abuse.
You come from the East End of London - are you excited about the 2012 Olympics?
I was gutted not to have made the cut in time for Beijing and I heard so many good stories from the other tennis players about it, but it makes me determined to compete when it’s on my doorstep.
Who has been the most influential figure in your career?
My dad was the one who pushed me and kept encouraging me when I was younger and has always had my best interests at heart. He gets nervous whenever I play.
How often do you feel the need to throw off the tennis clothes and glam up a bit in a nice dress?
I wish I had the chance to do it more often. I like getting dressed up and feeling really feminine. Good presentation in everyone is important.
What sort of music do you put on to psyche yourself up and what music helps you to chill?
I have a playlist on my iPod which I like to listen to before matches. It includes upbeat songs from the Arctic Monkeys, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Snow Patrol. When I’m chilling out I listen to soft rock and pop.
A QUESTION OF TASTE
Favourite holiday destination?
Favourite tennis event or location?
English pub food
What country would you like to visit but haven’t yet done so?
Is it West Ham, Tottenham, Arsenal or maybe Leyton Orient?
George Clooney or Brad Pitt?
Glass half full or half empty?