Here is the interview as promised:
Klara Koukalova: The best win in her career
She left the scene of the first WTA tournament on Slovenian ground with a huge smile on her face. Klara Koukalova, who had to work hard in previous rounds to even make it to the final, offered a excellent display to ruin Slovenian tennis hero’s plans for a triumph in front of the home crowd. Katarina Srebotnik had a chance to feel the fourth seed’s killer backhand. Brown-haired Czech player won her second tournament in her eight final.
The 23-year old player from Prague rarely smiles during her matches. She is very focused on the court and she is very animated, when she loses point. It is not rare that her racquet is thrown to the ground, because of her anger/frustration. But off the court she is a completely different person. The winner of hte first ever Banka Koper Slovenia Open is a simple girl that likes to smile and was very pleased with the title she won. She has already won two titles in 2005. Klara is trying hard to reach the top 30 as soon as possible, which is her goal for this year. She made an important step to reaching that goal in Portorož, and she made strong promises to return as a defending champion to the »city of thousand flowers« next year.
Q: You defeated Katarina Srebotnik in an exciting final and became the first winner of the inaugural WTA tournament in Sloveia. What are you feeling after winning your second title in your six-year career like?
A: I could not be happier. This victory in Portoroz means even more to me than my first title in Hertogenbosch. This final against Katarina was the hardest final I ever played in my memory. I played in eight finals already (besides the two won titles, the other finals were in Palermo, Hertogenbosch, Casablanca, Antwerpen and twice in Sopot), but never was a match in my career so hard and exhausting. This was the best win in my career. I finally managed to win a title on a hard court as well.
Q: Katarina said after the match, that she cannot hold anything against herself, she left her heart on the court. She said you were just too strong for her in the final. What is your judgement of Slovenia’s best player’s game?
A: Katarina played excellent. She showed some excellent tennis with the help of the home crowd, which was responsible for a great atmosphere. Even though she made me work hard, I managed to bring the match to a happy end. I was very nervous before the match, because I suffered many defeats in previous finals. I said to myself, it’s now or never. And indeed, I managed to hit some great shots later and I managed to defeat Katarina.
Q: The final had a lot of turnarounds. What do you feel was the turning moment in your favor?
A: When I was 0:2 down in the third set. I decided there, I will fight with all I have until the end. I’m glad I did not give up then. I had a bit of luck as well. I don’t like to say this, but I was not pleased with some of the calls, but it was a dream finish for me. I kept my concentration until the end this time, unlike some previous matches in Portoroz, in the second round against Klösel for example.
Q: When you arrived on the Slovenian coast on the 19th of September, was this you first visit here, have you spent your holidays before in Slovenia?
A: It is true that a lot of Czechs spend their summer vacation in Slovenia and especially Croatia. My family never did, so this is the first time I visited a town on the Slovenian coast. The only place in Slovenia where I have been in the past is Maribor, where I won a ITF tournament five years ago.
Q: Have your goals changed after the victory in Portoroz?
A: Not really. I would like to become a top 30 player. And then I can set my goals higher and gradually lower my wishes (laughs).
Q: What about your grand slam performances?
A: That is my weak point. I have never played well on any of the slams. I will have to drastically improve my results soon (laughs). My best result was the third round two years ago in Melbourne. Australian Open is my favorite tournament, because of the great surface, sunny weather and nice people. Everything is ideal. But it is also true that I would like to fulfill my childhood dream of winning in Wimbledon, but that will be anything but easy (laughs).
Q: The Czechs have always had a great tennis school, with the likes of famous players like Martina Navratilova, Hana Mandlikova, Helena Sukova and Jana Novotna in the past. What the situation like after entering the third millennium?
A: There are eight, nine girls in the top 100. We are a small nation that has every reason to be proud of its tennis history. We also have successful male players, so the situation is solid.
Q: In the past the Czech had players like Ivan Lendl and Petr Korda, who were at the top of male tennis, but now there are no such stars from the Czech Republic. Is there someone who can replace them in the near future?
A: We will have to wait and see. Tomas Berdych is on good track, and on the ladies side we have a very promising player in Nicole Vaidisova.
Q: Has tennis retained the high popularity in the Czech Republic in recent years?
A: I’m afraid not. There has been a lot of talk about football, ice-hockey and also basketball and even golf in the recent years. Popularity wise tennis is around sixth place, which I don’t really like, as we are represented less and less in the media.
Q: Did you want to become a tennis player since you were little?
A: Definitely not until I was ten, I enjoyed playing with dolls the most until then. My father changed the whole thing, when he enrolled me in a tennis school. And as it turned out I was better than other girls my age so I slowly accepted tennis as an important part of my life. My dad still follows me around today. He came to Portoroz as well and cheered me on with all his heart.
Q: Will you return to Portoroz next year?
A: Of course. I adore Portoroz. I fell in love with it soon after arriving. I will recommend it to other Czech tennis players as well. Unfortunately Nicole Vaidisova, who is currently in the US, could not come this year as she already entered too many tournaments in 2005. I hope she will find time and place in her calendar for next year. Nicole is my great friend, but I will have to face her on Tuesday in the first round of the WTA tournament in Luxembourg. The draw was really cruel. I just hope I will be able to get some rest from everything nice that happened to me here in Portoroz until then.
There is a mistake in that last answer, Klara is of course playing Iveta and not Nicole in the first round. I don’t know who made the mistake in the interview, the journalist or perhaps she was just too tired.
I will also be uploading some more Klara pics from Saturday today.