Following her good results over the past few weeks, the WTA interviewed Monica in Zurich. They also made a very nice description of her interesting game.
Getting to Know... Monica Niculescu
Monica Niculescu boasts one of the most unorthodox, crafty and just plain entertaining playing styles around. Since the age of 14 she has struck the ball with two hands off both wings, especially when extra pace is required, but more fascinating is her dedication to underspin and slice - and not just as an act of defense or as an entrée to the net. This, she employs with one hand or two, depending on circumstances; it follows she has a mean drop shot, deft touch at the net, and useful lob. It is almost impossible for opponents to guess what's coming next.
"Everybody is hitting straight, so I think my style is confusing and it is helping me," agrees the 21-year-old Romanian, who currently enjoys a career-high ranking in the mid-60s. The winner of an impressive 15 titles on the ITF Circuit, Niculescu reached her first Tour quarterfinal at Tashkent recently, and last week earned her best win to date at Zürich, where she upset Anna Chakvetadze in the first round. Given the array of shots at her disposal - she has been described as a female counterpart to Fabrice Santoro - the best is surely yet to come.
If you could play against one player from the past, who would it be?
MN: Definitely Steffi Graf. I know she also hit the backhand with a slice, so I think it would be great to play a match against her. I liked Martina Hingis very much too because she had fun on court. She was able to relax and you could see on her face she was enjoying it.
Among the current players on Tour, who would you most like the opportunity to play?
MN: I've never played against one of the Williams sisters, and I would love to. It was a possibility in the second round of the Australian Open this year, I had a great chance to play Venus but I lost in the first round to Camille Pin in three sets. I was a little bit disappointed.
What's the best thing about life on the Tour?
MN: It's a great opportunity to travel and see the world, and speak other languages - English, French - with the other players. It's also great just to be near all the top players like Jelena Jankovic and Venus - you can learn a lot from watching them.
Do you have a favorite city? What do you do in your spare time?
MN: Right now I like Zürich very much, because I had good wins over Top 50 players in qualies and then beat Chakvetadze in three sets the first round.
Before I came away my dad loaded lots of movies on my laptop and I also like to listen to music. It depends, but I don't like sightseeing so much – I mean, I don’t like to look at rocks in a museum. But I enjoy a zoo or acquarium… and shopping. A mall is perfect for me.
Several young Romanians - including Sorana Cirstea and Ioana Raluca Olaru - are doing well on the circuit. Does it help to have compatriots on the Tour?
MN: It's great to have people from home around when you are travelling. I'm always asking Sorana to play doubles with me. We reached the final at New Haven and had a good win over Medina Garrigues and Ruano Pascual at Zürich. I also have a good relationship with Olaru. Sometimes we'll all practice in Bucharest if we are there at the same time. We're competitive as well, but in a good way. Sorana is doing better at the moment and we want to be like her.
I'm friends with lots of the players. Marina Erakovic is very nice - we were runners-up in the Wimbledon junior doubles together in 2005. Jankovic is always nice to me too.
In the past you've said you like to travel alone. Why is that?
MN: Mostly I have my coach with me now but sometimes I think it's good to be alone, because when you have to do everything for yourself it makes you stronger, whether it's organizing travel or doing stretches.
You turned 21 a few weeks ago. How did you celebrate?
MN: I was very happy because I was at home in Bucharest. I was supposed to play a tournament but I needed a small operation on my nose, which meant I was able to spend the day with my family. We went out to eat and it was a very nice evening. Most of my friends are in tennis, so when I'm in Bucharest I like to spend as much time as possible with my family and a couple of good friends I have there.
Around that time there was a Davis Cup tie in Bucharest; Romania played India. I was able to go and watch the tennis and support our team. They won, so it was very exciting.
What are your favorite tennis memories?
MN: Beating Chakvetadze is certainly one of them. And, even though I lost, I played a good close first set against Jankovic at Roland Garros this year. At New Haven, I came back from a set down to beat Kirilenko, which was a good win for me also.
What's your next goal, tennis-wise?
MN: My next goal is to be in the Top 50, and to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam. That's the kind of result that earns you bigger points and you start to become better known. I think my best chance might be at the Australian Open, which is a tournament I like very much. I like the surface and the weather is usually great. I think grass is also a good surface for me, because I can use the slice, and come into the net.
My game has improved quite a lot, so I think I have a chance.