I'm excited about the next challenges / June 29, 2008
This year's Wimbledon has been a big learning experience for me. It's still only a day or so after my defeat to Jie Zheng, but already I can see some mistakes I made, and what I have to do differently to succeed here in the future. But Friday's loss was not only about me: she played a great match.
Despite her ranking, Zheng played like a top 20 player, no question. I think that this is something I will have to get used to if I am to be the No.1 player in the world: there is extra motivation to beat the top-ranked player, and less pressure, because not many people expect you to do it. I know this because I have played No.1 players myself in the past, and I was always extra motivated, and my coaches told me I had nothing to lose, so I could just enjoy it.
I am beginning to understand the pressure that Roger Federer must experience everytime he goes onto court. I admire him so much for the way he handles it. With time I am sure I will learn how to deal with the expectation that comes with being No.1. I did feel extra pressure coming to this tournament, but I definitely don't blame my defeat on that, and I still enjoyed myself here. I was not nervous against Zheng; I just played badly and she did not give me many chances.
Looking back, it's easy to say that my preparation was not the best. I had a small injury that stopped me from practising at 100 per cent, but even after I had recovered my coaches and I decided not to practice too intensely, because mentally I was still a little tired from Paris. With hindsight this was the wrong decision.
On the positive side, I am still just 20-years-old and I have a lot to learn. I know that I will make mistakes now and then, but as long as I can learn from each experience, I am not worried about that.
Zheng is especially dangerous on grass because she hits the ball very flat, so it stays low. It's no secret that this is the most effective way to play on this surface, and it's one of the reasons why Venus Williams has been so successful here.
Looking at the draw, it's clear that the Williams sisters are the most accomplished players left in the tournament and I would favour either one of them to win it. If Zheng can play like she did on Friday she can for sure reach the semi-finals at least.
I probably won't watch any of the women's matches, but then I would not have done so even if I was still in the tournament. In general I don't watch much women's tennis: I prefer to watch the men's game, because from a personal point of view I can learn more from men's tennis. Don't get me wrong: I think that women's tennis is in great shape at the moment and very exciting to watch.
I think that my defeat, and also that of Sharapova, shows that there is great depth in the women's game. Anyone who thinks otherwise is ignoring the facts.
Often after a defeat to a player ranked quite a bit lower than me, I am asked if I was injured. I always reply the same way: just because you lose to someone with a low ranking, it doesn't mean you were injured! There are many reasons for not performing your best, and even so, you must give credit to your opponent for being the better player.
Going from clay to grass is the toughest transition in tennis and you must get your preparation perfect in order to succeed on both surfaces. I really think we need an extra week between Wimbledon and the French Open because it's two completely different styles of play.
It's not just the physical aspect of the two contrasting surfaces - for example the bounce of the ball, the movement - it's also the mental approach to matches. On clay you have to be durable and go to the court knowing that you might have to play 30 shots just to win one rally. You feel like you have time to get into matches, but you must have endurance.
On grass it's the exact opposite: you have to be ultra-focused from the very start, and try to hit almost perfect aggressive shots from the very beginning. If things aren't going your way, matches can be over quite quickly.
The past month has been very emotional for me. I achieved my two biggest goals in life by winning my first Grand Slam and becoming No.1. But I still have a lot to improve on before I can achieve my other goals, and I'm excited about the next challenges.