Translation coming up first thing tomorrow morning, european time
As promissed, after 2 hours of work (you guys owe me a lunch or something)...
The hardest for me is to sign autographs to Barca fans
Our reporter tried to convince Donna that he could be her coach, eventhough his name doesn't start with a D, and she „burried him underground“ with a clear 6:0, 6:0 and then, as a consolation, took him for some coffee and ice cream.
In our Laganini section we continue with the series of laid back Saturday interviews with interesting personas from Osijek, and this time our „ball boy“ Tomislav Levak tries to drag out from his guest, things about which the public knew little so far. Next week she goes onto a series of grasscourt events, and soon she'll also celebrate her 17th birthday so it came the time for Donna Vekic, best ranked Croatian female tennis player and already a worldwide star. Thanks to her and her parents' consideration, we caught her in Osijek between all the travels, practices and tournaments. First she, naturally, „ripped us apart“ on the tennis court, then she posed for photos holding souveniers from London and wearing Mario Mandzukic's shirt, then we strolled around the square and ate ice cream, then she introduced us to her beloved puppy Hick, and we ended it all with some water at Cookie caffe. Before returning to practice courts, in a casual, cheerful interview, she discovered for us „the other side of Donna“.
- Donna, you've got an interesting name, like made for a star. Who's to blame for it? – Dad. I like it, it's simple, yet unusual. Why he gave me such a name...well, you have to ask him that.
- Is that one of your favorite juice brand, Dona, and what flavor? – Ha-ha-ha... Actually, I have to say I've never heard of that one, must be some older brand.
- Who sang „I had a girl, Donna was her name...“ and in which movie? – Urhg, don't know that, but on one tournament in Maribor there was a man who always sang it to me whenever he'd see me. That was really cute.
- It was Richie Valens and the movie is „La Bamba“, just so you know. Have you ever considered changing your name to Madonna or Londonna? - Ha-ha-ha-ha... Now you got me. Madonna is an OK artist I'd say, nothing special, but I know my dad loves her. Maybe that was the reason for the name... I've never considered a name change, but I could become Londonna if and when, let's say, I win Wimbledon.
- Or even better Wimbledonna (laughs)! There you have it, we've settled that and the London weather and all. Why do you like London so much and what do you like there? – For several years now we practically live in London, cause that's where my coach David Felgate is. It's an awesome city, and also I have my bunch there already, which is the main reason. It's hard for me to specifiy what's the best about it. I don't know why everybody thinks the weather is always bad there. It's not really, there's sun as well at times.
- In which part of Osijek you grew up and how much you miss it? – I grew up on Mackamama and sometimes I do miss Osijek. But I'm already so used to traveling and I also come here very often, mostly to see my family and relatives who are still here. They're my biggest support, mom Brankica, dad Igor and brother Bruno who is in the 7th grade, and also my grandmas Lidija and Milica.
- Tell us what's your favorite or most beautiful location in Osijek? – Hmmm... The promenade I find really beautiful. I like to go there when I find the time.
- In which highschool do you go and how do you manage your exams? Do teachers cut you some slack? – I attend Gaudeamus private school. Teachers are demanding, but also very helpful, as well as fellow classmates when I'm around to take exams for some subjects. It's not easy, but I manage to get it done. I'm an A student and let's say I like biology quite a lot. I figure math quite quickly as well, but I find Croatian language studies rather difficult now, especially since I've been living in London. But that's why I know English very well.
- As expected. Do you maybe get a free pass in gym classes? Like, you bring an excuse note from the national tennis team? – Ha-ha... No, but whenever I win it's another A in the book for me. That's why I have the most A's from gym classes.
- How much do you practice daily and in what way, when not on a tournament of course? – Well, basically I practice all day, cause when my court practice is over I have many other duties to attend to – fitess practice, stretching, massages, special dietary regime... But speaking of pure tennis practice, it's 4 to 5 hours a day.
- Yes, I saw how tough one of your practice sessions is. Do you have a feeling like you're missing out on a lot in life because of tennis at such an early age? – I know I give up on a lot because of it, but I think I get back even more compared to my peers who go to school regularly etc. I mean that in a sense of life experience, cause I get to see the world and meet new, interesting people all the time.
- How do you spend your free time, go out sometimes maybe? – Sometimes yes, but more to dinners and such quieter gatherings. There are some really cool restaurants, like, in London on Picadilly Circus or Leicester Square. There's this one great sports bar called Ping, where they have ping-pong tables, which is where I like to go out with my team. But I never stay out late, there's no such thing if you intend to play tennis professionally. And honestly, I'm not drawn to it anyway. Cigarettes and alchohol are pretty unknown in my life.
- But is there something not very healthy that you do like to drink sometimes moderately? Maybe a cocktail? – Ha-ha... Yeah sure, one always before the match for relaxation... (laughs) Kidding. Well the only „cocktail“ for me is champagne after I win the tournament. That's when it's very tasty. I don't fancy coffee and don't drink tea either. I'm especially not a fan of English tea with milk. I drink water mostly.
- Share with us your greatest victory and your worst defeat ever? – I think my biggest win is the one from this year's 1st round of Australian Open against A. Hlavackova. My biggest success is probably winning a 50k challenger in Istanbul, which I won some weeks ago. And the worst defeat, urgh, came in the 3rd quali round of last year's US Open when I lost to Romanian Gallovits-Hall. In that one I led 6:2, 2:0, it was close but I still lost. It was the third and last round of qualies, so close to the main draw, yet, so far at the same time... Afterwards there were tears, tears and then some more tears.
- What's your biggest professional ambition, in singles and team competition? – In singles, of course, to be #1 and win Wimbledon. And in team tennis I'd like to win Fed Cup for Croatia. I haven't really given much thought to what I'll do after tennis, but I'd like to stay in sport somehow. The only thing I wouldn't do is be a coach, cause I would never have enough patience for that. It's still easier to play.
- Have you ever had tennis elbow or some other injury? – Last year I had some elbow issues, but I took care of it once the season was over. We're all sometimes injured to a certain extent, but luckily, there were no serious problems.
- Your favorite shot? – Forehand. Somehow I feel the strongest when I hit it and like I can control the game with it.
- Would you ever bet on a tennis match, especially your own? – No, we have strict rules against betting, employed by the ITF, and to tell you the truth I'm not really interested in it anyway. But I do know that many people bet on my matches and curse me when they lose. There were all kinds of comments on online forums, but I try not to pay attention.
- Do you know which famous Croatian soccer player was „discovered“ by your grandma Lidija? – Of course, Davor Suker. I met him and think he is a great athlete, kudos to him for everyhing he's done in his career. I hope to be more widely known around the world one day than even him.
- So do I. I heard you like some of the Croatian soccer players? – Yes, Mario Mandzukic and Luka Modric. I'd particularly like to congratulate Mandzukic for scoring a goal in the Champions League finals this year.
- But actually you're a fan of another famous club. Why? – Yes, it's Real Madrid. Back when I was still a kid Davor played for Real and my dad is good friends with him. I guess it just came by itself.
- If I were to come to this interview wearing a Barca shirt, would you talk to me? – No, absolutely not! Sometimes on a tournament some fans approach me and ask me for an autograph while wearing a Barca shirt, so before I sign we have a serious conversation about it and I try to talk them into reconsidering their life choices. In some cases I succeeded. So the hardest thing for me is to sign autographs to Barca fans.
- I also heard you particularly like one player, a goalkeeper to be exact. Why him? – Iker Casillas. He's cool and really a legend of the club.
- Honestly, after this season, what's your verdict on Jose Mourinho, their former coach who basically kept him on the sidelines all the time? – Well, it wasn't much of a season, but I believe Real will be stronger and better. And about Casillas on the bench, well, that was his decision with which I don't agree. It's not really fair, but he's the coach and you gotta listen to the coach. I respect his decisions.
- Fair enough. Did you ever watch Real and Casillas live and how was it? – Yes I did! Just this year when I was in Madrid I went to a match at Santiago Bernabeu, it's just that Iker wasn't on the pitch. Real played Borussia Dortmund in the CL semis and went out unfortunatelly. Then I watched them against Valladolid too, and it was a great match and a 4:3 win.
- If it were, godwilling, to happen a European match between FC Osijek and Real Madrid, who'd you root for? – Real, still. It's also much more realistic for a win.
- Who's your best friend on Tour? – Petra Martic. On the other hand, there isn't anyone with whom I have serious issues.
- Now whisper to me, who is the best looking male player and the prettiest female? – Of the guys I think John Isner is cute, but he's a little tall. Among the girls I find Ana Ivanovic to be the prettiest.
- Oftentimes you're compared, by looks and more recently also by game, to beautiful and talented Caroline Wozniacki. How do you comment on that? I know we resemble quite a lot, but I don't think we play a similar game. I love the comparissons, but I'd still prefer to be remembered just as Donna Vekic.
- We don't doubt that many guys have noticed a beautiful girl like you. If it were to happen a romance with one of them, what would be the priority? – Tennis is always a priority, but we'd see about that... (laughs)
- You've already traveled the world quite extensively, do you find time for sightseeing? Which city or a country have fascinated you the most, and which disappointed you and why? – Just recently I was in Madrid and was absolutely fascinated, but Paris, New York, Melbourne...they're all beautiful in their own way. Usually we go sightseeing once the tournament is over if we find the time, so after I'm done with playing. But then again, when we were in Istanbul not long ago, I played the finals and won, so we didn't find time to explore the city.
- How much are your thoughts on beauty of some place influenced by your result on that tournament? – Well, since some of my best results came in some less than pretty places, I'd say it doesn't matter. But of course, it's always nice to experience a good atmosphere and celebrating a win.
- Where do you like to vacation and with whom? – In tennis, summer lasts pretty much all year long, but I know what you mean. My favorite would be with friends on the Adriatic. I love Hvar so we might go there again this year.
- You use a cellphone extensively, what's your favorite kind and why? – Yes, I spend a lot of time using it cause I surf the internet with it and communicate with people. I have both a Blackberry and an iPhone, but I'd say I prefer the first one. It has more features which I use.
- You spend a lot of time online and on social networks, do you consider yourself addicted? What do you look for the most and do you hang out on Facebook? – When it comes to FB I have a team who deals with my fan page. I prefer Twitter, and when I do surf I search for new styles of dresses and shoes (laughs). I also use Twitter to communicate with my fans.
- You have over 15 000 FB „likes“, does it present more of a pressure or a pleasure? – I think it's an essential part of this job and the life I live. Support means a lot and so I thank my fans. Thre are, of course, some nasty comments too on forums and news portals. People tend to overreact and forget that there's a real person (me) behind it all.
- How much do they recognize you, talk to you on the street, how much does it bother you? – In Osijek and Croatia I get recognized a lot and I don't consider it harrasement. Once mom and I were shopping for shoes and some of them asked her: „Is that really Donna Vekic?“ I still find it odd, and recently when we were flying with British Airways to London, a pilot approached us and said they're honored that we're flying with them and offered us to move up to business class. That was cool.
- Do you feel like social networks are a substitute for social life to you? – I find them very useful to communicate with people with this hectic lifestyle and frequent travels. Still, I prefer to go out for a coffee (eventhough I don't drink it – laughs) with some friends and have a chat. Unfortunately it doesn't happen often.
- Do you have something sweet with that coffee/watter (laughs)? – I see you know I have a weak spot for sweets, especially Ledo ice creams, cakes and stuff. Lately I really love macaroni, but not as pasta, rather as cookies. Because of tennis I follow a special diet, although I can actually eat anything I want in moderation.
- Can you cook something? – Ha-ha, good question. The other day I tried to make a white chocolate mousse and failed twice. I know how to make some basic stuff only, and the most important are pancakes. They're enough to survive. I could live on nutella pancakes how much I love them. (laughs)
- In the preparation for this interview we took some photos of you with your dog. Which breed is he and what's his name? – His name is Hick and he is a Parson Russel terrier. He is full of life, similar to me, that's why we get along so well. And about the name, at around the same time I got him, my aunt Iva was shopping for a dog and wanted to name him Hick, which I loved. But as she took too much time and still haven't got a dog I „stole“ her the name.
- What would you like to be if you weren't a tennis player? – An actress or a forensics expert! I love watching CSI. Many have told me I'd be a good lawyer too, cause I know how to argue fiercly and defend my arguments. (laughs)
- Wait, forensics? You can handle blood? – Not really, I'd be a lab geek. (laughs)
- Speaking of acting, which actress would you like to play you some day in a movie about your life? – Oh that's interesting... Blake Lively. I like her very much.
- Off court you can oftentimes be seen all dressed up, what do you have a soft spot for when it comes to fashion? – Shoes! And dresses too. I don't have too many, but when I see something nice I just have to get it. Also, I have numerous nail polishes, while I don't have as much make-up since I'm mostly on court. That's why I color coordinate nail polishes to my tennis outfits.
- Wow, sounds like you'll become a fashion icon of tennis. Which store would you storm through if you'd be given unlimited funds? – Abercrombie & Fitch in London...no wait, New York! They have 4 storeys there. (laughs)
- How much time do you spend on hair daily? Have you ever considered, solely for tennis, to cut your hair short? – No! I love long hair and it doesn't take me more than 5 minutes to make a ponytail or a braid. Doesn't take away too much time.
- What about books or movies? Well, I haven't read a book in a long time, and the other day I went to the movies with my brother to see „The Hangover Part 3“ and had a really good laugh. I prefer comedies, and when it comes to tv shows it's CSI and Gossip Girl.
- Well, you have made a movie already, truth be told it was an accident, in which you and the girls from the Fed Cup dance after a match in Tel Aviv, Israel last year. How do you like that dancing act? (laughs) – God, the more I look at it the lesser I like it...(laughs) It was a time when Ana Konjuh as a rookie needed to make some sort of an act on stage. She asked me to help out and didn't have to ask twice (laughs). There were no rehersals and it was all very spontaneous.
- In the said video you showcase quite a skill in dancing while wearing heels on top of your 179 centimeters. Will you teach me? (laughs) – No problem. But it's not actually a dance, basically just jumping. It wouldn't be hard to teach you, although heels might pose a problem. (laughs)
- In this video we hear Severina's „Brad Pitt“, is that the type of music you listen to? That was some sort of an anthem of ours over there at Fed Cup so that's why we chose it. Recently I was at Severina's concert and it was spectacular. Usually I listen to the latest hits found on foreign charts.
- Do you possibly know who performs and do you like them „Kad sam imao 16“ and „Sedamnaest ti je godina tek“? – Have to admit I don't have a clue. (laughs)
- The first one is by Pshiomodo Pop and the other one has many versions. What's your take on turbo folk? – I don't like it, I simply don't prefer that type of music, but I have a lot of friends who do, so I'm sometimes forced to listen.
- And to close it out, here's your chance to ask ME anything and I have to answer. Shoot. – You told me you have cousins living in London and that you were there a few times... So, London or Osijek?
- A good one. I still prefer Osijek. – I don't doubt that.
A ball into the head from 50 yards away
- How impulsively do you react on your own mistakes or, in your opinion, unfair referee decisions? Was there swearing or breaking of racquets? – He-he... Beeep! Swearing maybe sometimes on some errors by the ref. It's never easy if they make, or you think they made, an unfair or a wrong decision. Still, I try to control myself and the older I get, the easier it becomes. I throw racquets and break them every once in a while, the last time I did it was in India, in my last tournament of 2012.
- You saw me on a tennis court. How long do you think you'd need to teach me to play some solid tennis, enough to win maybe some veteran championships? Or should I stick to my ball boy role? – Ha-ha... I said I'll never be a coach, but if you'd really talk me into it, I'd say it would take at least 2 or 3 years. It might be better if you just give up. (laughs)
- Try to estimate, what would be the result if we were to play a two set match? – 6:0, 6:0 for me, of course. (laughs)
- You're probably right. And could my friend Davor, who plays well, become your coach? – You know that one too... (laughs) Well, name is one of the basic requirements, and he has the right one. Names of all my coaches have and still do start with a D, just like mine. Let's see, there was Domagoj Lackovic, Davor Grgic, Damir Barisic, Dado Majoli and now David Felgate. I also have a fitness coach Dario Novak. That's a coincidence, but obviously a winning combination too.
- Your fastest serve? – 182 km/h was my fastest ever recorded. There might've been even faster ones.
- What could you, for a bet, hit from a distance of 100 yards? Could you, with 10 attempts, hit for example, my head? Not that I want it... (laughs) – From a hundred probably not cause it's too far, but take that down to 50 and I'll make it. Tennis court is 24 so I could gauge more easily.
Either/or times five
- Grass or clay? – Grass, absolutely.
- Mario Mandzukic or Davor Suker? – Iker Casillas. (laughs)
- Osijek or London? Awww... London, still.
- Facebook or Twitter? – Twitter. More frequent and more personal interaction with fans.
- Forensics or acting? – Acting.