Greece has a long tradition in Tennis. Greek renown male athletes are George Kalovelonis, Tasos Bavelas, Vasilis Mazarakis, Solon Peppas and Konstantinos Economidis. Female renown athletes are Angelliki Kanellopoulou, Christina Papadaki and Eleni Danilidou.
Aug 7th, 2004, 10:30 PM
Interview with Lena Daniilidou from the Athens Website -
At the end of 2002 you are in the top 20. Where do you think you’ll be in August 2004?
“In Tennis, as in every sport, there are many unknown factors. God willing, I’ll be fit, and everything else will fall into place. I’ll try hard to achieve my targets and 2003 will be a decisive year.”
If the Olympic Games had been held in August 2002, the gold and silver medals would have been won by the Williams sisters. In 2004, which position do you think you will achieve?
“The standard in my sport rises every three months. It needs hard work. There are a lot of very good athletes. It will depend at that moment on who is in the best form. It’s a long way off. A place on the Olympic podium would mean the achievement of one of my greatest sporting dreams.”
The 2004 Games will be your first major tournament in Greece. Thousands of Greeks will be sitting in the stands. How do you imagine that moment? Might the crowd’s expectations put pressure on you or will they give you a boost?
“That is when I think my dreams will become true. When I think of it, I don’t feel pressure. I hope I don’t when the time comes. It was very good for me that I got a first taste in Sydney. The crowd will give me a boost. Of course, I still need a lot of work to get to the level I want. I have to be calm, and then I can compete with all my strength and try to win and succeed.”
A good coach is considered the be-all and end-all in Tennis. Lena Daniilidou has been far from lucky in that area. She managed to break into the world’s top 50 without a coach at all. Her matches were her training. Since last December, the Greek champion has trained with Sweden’s Lars Anders Wahlgren, who was once assistant coach to the top German player, Steffi Graf.
The coach in Tennis is very close to the athlete. How important is his presence?
“We travel constantly. There has to be absolute communication between the coach and the athlete. Every week we are in a different city, often in two. The scenery changes. It’s all change. The only things that stay roughly the same are the courts and the opponents. The relationship has to have a solid professional basis, however, because the coach is paid by the athlete. There has to be chemistry, experience and everything else. Of course, it is very difficult to find the perfect combination. There are problems. The coach can’t have family commitments; he has to like travelling and all the rest of it...”
The travelling and all the other activities look exciting for people who are not familiar with that way of life. How does your day look when you have had a match, and when you don’t have a match?
“We begin in the morning with training, then food, the match, relaxation, a massage, food and bed. When we don’t have a match, we try to make the most of every second to relax. We go to the cinema or look round the city where the tournament is being held. The schedule is very strict and we create it ourselves. When we are competing in a tournament, we have to be ready at any moment, if I lose, to book tickets and go to another city for the next tournament, to train and acclimatise. Our time is very limited.”
How do relax after a difficult encounter?
“What relaxes me is shopping and going out for a drive. I like driving and I listen to music. Driving relaxes me amazingly. Music keeps me company before and after the match.”
Have you ever felt like packing it all in and running off?
“That happens at the end of every year, when we really have to climb a mountain. Most of us are tired and everything is very difficult. But that’s where you see who can last and who has strong nerves. Occasionally things cross my mind, but I love what I do and I wouldn’t change it for anything. I get tired sometimes, but then I remember that I’m the one who chose this path. I wouldn’t change Tennis for anything.”
Since the age of 15 you’ve been with a suitcase in your hand. Life is difficult for a young girl far from her family. What kept you playing?
“My love for Tennis cancels out everything, tiredness and loneliness. I travel, change surroundings, go to new countries, meet different people and encounter different attitudes. The experiences are exciting. The patience and the effort are rewarded. I think that 2002 was a positive year. I’m very happy that I managed to break into the world’s top 30.”
While you are competing in different tournaments around the world, most other people of your age are enjoying themselves in clubs. When you have to go to bed early, your friends in Greece are staying up all night dancing. Don’t you miss that life?
“I miss my family more. The basic thing is for us all to be healthy. For me to do what I love, we have all made sacrifices. My family helped and supported me a lot and the only thing I want is for us all to be well and to share in one another’s dreams. I don’t miss staying up all night and partying. I love what I do. I’m disappointed when I lose, but I write it off and start again from the beginning. Tennis was my choice and I don’t envy anyone.”
Slowly but surely, and despite unfavourable conditions, Lena Daniilidou has made her presence felt among the sport’s elite. She has won hundreds of admirers abroad, who support her and exchange views on her over the Internet. At Wimbledon (where Lena reached the last 16), the young Greek’s fans created a fantastic atmosphere. The buzz around her was so special, in fact, that the 20-year-old almost beat the American Jennifer Capriati, who has now defeated her three times. This year at the All-England Club, Daniilidou came close to winning. Having lost the first set, she came back to win the second, but play had to be stopped because of the rain. “If the match had finished on the first day, I would have won. Oh well, better luck next time,” she says, laughing.
Apart from your family, do you have anyone else supporting you?
“My psychologist also helps me, but he’s in Thessaloniki, unfortunately, and my only contact with him is through the Internet. Tennis demands calm and concentration. You work on them and improve them. Lots of the players have a psychologist with them.”
We hear a lot about the luxury lifestyles of the top tennis players. You’re now within a whisker of them. Will you follow their example?
“In a big tournament you see everything. The players who have made it, who can afford it, live in luxury. Even if I could, I wouldn’t do that. I’m happy with a clean, quiet room. Excess doesn’t suit my character.”
How do the stars of the sport behave?
“It depends on their character. In the top ten there are some who are a bit snotty, and others who are really nice. It is usually the ones who have had to fight more and faced more difficulties who behave better.”
Do you have friends on the tour?
“At that level it’s difficult to make friends, but even if you do, you have to be careful. Everything is about the job, and there’s a lot of money at stake. There are some players that I’m closer to and we have fun during the long boring interludes. But to make a real friend is difficult.”
You live for long periods abroad, far from your family and without a friend by your side. Don’t you feel lonely?
“I’m used to it and I enjoy it. There is loneliness because it’s an individual sport. You’re constantly with a suitcase in your hand, but I’m used to that way of life. I enjoy my sacrifice. It’s a mountain I climb with pleasure.”
We could call you a ‘modern migrant’. With the endless travelling and speaking English with the other players every day, do you sometimes forget where you are from?
“I never forget Greece. I feel Greek and I am Greek through and through. Greece and Greece again. My home and the people I love are there. I play for my country and I hope to bring more pleasure to Greece and the Greek people.”
Apart from Football, the Brazilians also love Tennis because of Gustavo Kuerten. Do you think the same thing could happen with the Greek people thanks to you?
“I hope I can manage it. Tennis is a fantastic sport.”
You have spoken to us about your sporting goals and dreams. What about on a personal level? Do you want to have a family some day?
“I love children and family. But it’s very early to be thinking of something like that. No one knows what life has in store for them. What is certain is that I want to carry on playing Tennis until I’m 25, 28, 30, why not until I’m 32 years old? As long as I last. Some people want to set an age limit for the sport. I don’t believe in that. Tennis is played at all ages. As long as you love it, have fun and enjoy every moment that you’re on court.”
Aug 7th, 2004, 10:38 PM
vamos lenita vamos
Aug 7th, 2004, 10:40 PM
Go Greek Goddess!!! http://image.fg-a.com/greeceCf.gif
Aug 7th, 2004, 10:48 PM
thanks for the interview elisse, is excellent :)
Aug 8th, 2004, 04:31 PM
well, this year has sucked so far, so let's hope for a great result in athens!! :D
Aug 10th, 2004, 02:36 PM
Good Luck Eleni :):)
Aug 10th, 2004, 04:55 PM
It's once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win Gold medal on home soil so do your best baby!
Aug 10th, 2004, 10:37 PM
I just saw a Lena's interview on the Greek TV and she said that she is in a good condition and mood.
Of course she is VERY motivated as she will play for the first time in front of so many greek fans in her country (including me! yes, I will be there cheering for my compatriot) :cool:
GO LENA GO!!!! :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce:
Aug 11th, 2004, 11:52 AM
Interview with Eleni Danillidou (GRE)
Eleni Daniilidou will be the main focus of Greek hopes in the Tennis Event at the Olympics, but as she tells Craig Gabriel, she is not letting the pressure get to her
Daniilidou aims to be next Greek odds-beater, in tennis
By ERICA BULMAN
The Associated Press
8/13/04 1:05 AM
ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greece's Eleni Daniilidou hopes she can beat the same kind of odds in tennis that her country's soccer team did at the European Championships: 100 to 1.
Ranked 36th in the world, Daniilidou is the country's lone tennis medal hope. The host nation is counting on the 21-year-old to give Greece its first medal in the sport in over a century.
"My aim is to reach the singles quarterfinals, something I consider to be hard because in this tournament it will be all top players," Daniilidou said ahead of the competition beginning Sunday.
The last Greek to reach the tennis final was Dionysios Kasdaglis -- at the first modern Olympics in 1896. Back then, diplomas were awarded to the champions instead of medals, so technically the first Greek silver medal has yet to be won.
The last Greek player to reach the Olympic quarterfinals was Angeliki Kanellopoulou, 20 years ago in Los Angeles when tennis was a demonstration sport.
However, Greek athletes have recently demonstrated they can overcome even the most incredible odds. The nation recorded one of the biggest upsets in soccer history in June when its team won the Euro 2004.
Daniilidou will similarly need to vanquish some of the greatest names in women's tennis to give her nation a second surprise title this summer.
On the way to the semifinals, the Greek will have to fight through a tough field that includes the likes of top seed Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium, on-form world No. 2 Amelie Mauresmo of France and defending champion Venus Williams.
"It's normal that Greek people expect a lot from Eleni as she's considered a world-class player," said her coach, Judith Sprenger. "Especially now that she's playing at home, in such a big event, expectations are even higher. But she is playing well at the moment and is optimistic."
Daniilidou faces Hungary's Aniko Kapros in the opening round.
And she has been given another chance at a medal, receiving a wild card for the women's doubles event with Christina Zachariadou.
Daniilidou, the best player that Greece has ever produced, hit No. 14 in the WTA rankings last year. The serve-and-volleyer won her third WTA title in Auckland, New Zealand, this year.
"She played good tennis this year, but she was often unlucky with the draw," said Sprenger. "In early rounds, she had to compete against top players like Serena Williams and Amelie Mauresmo."
Since 2001, Daniilidou has steadily climbed the echelons of women's tennis. Ranked only 142nd in June 2001, within a year, she vaulted into 32nd position.
A native of Chania on the island of Crete, Daniilidou became the first woman to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2002 and cracked the top 20 by January 2003. A month later, she settled into 16th place.
After witnessing her triumph at the ASB Classic in Auckland in 2003, Australian doubles champion Todd Woodbridge asked her to play doubles with him at the following Open in Melbourne. The pair went all the way to the final.
In singles play at the same event, Daniilidou reached the fourth round before succumbing to Serena Williams, giving Greece its best-ever finish at the tournament.
In addition to Daniilidou's doubles wild-card entry, Greece received two others -- one for Konstantinos Economidis in men's singles and for Vasilis Mazarkis and Economidis in men's doubles.
Aug 13th, 2004, 01:28 PM
Tthanks everyone for all the interviews and pics!! :D
Athens, Greece (Sports Network) - Greek Eleni Daniilidou won her opening round match Monday at the Athens Olympics.
Daniilidou, who lives north of Athens in Greece's second-largest city of Thessaloniki, rolled to a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Colombian Catalina Castano in front of a home crowd on Centre Court.
"The fans were fantastic," Daniilidou said. "I need them to support me at my next match."
Daniilidou was scheduled to play Hungary's Aniko Kapros, but Kapros withdrew from the Games and was replaced by Castano.
"It was a surprise for me, to find out only this morning that I would compete in the women's singles event," said Castano, who is also competing in doubles. "It's my first participation in the Olympic Games and I'm very happy about that."
Well played Eleni!! :D
(But I'm worried how she will recover in time to play Anastasia tomorrow.... :sad: ) Good luck Eleni!! :bounce:
Aug 18th, 2004, 12:07 AM
Well done!! :D:D
Please recover for tomorrow and good luck! :):)
Aug 18th, 2004, 07:12 AM
I don't know if any of you were in the centre court last night but the crowd was unbelievable.The centre court was on fire!!
We didn't stop a minute to cheer for Lena not even when she lost the first set.
There was a Bulgarian flag held by Katerina and Manuela Maleeva,both former tennis players,and i think they were the only supporters for Maggie in the centre court.
It must have been very difficult for Maggie to play with the people cheering and screaming even during the points but i have to congratulate her because she is a professional player and she didn't complain at all.
Lena's coatch Judith Sprenger said after the match that Lena suffered a straining in her right thigh but she will compete tomorrow evening against Anastasia Myskina.
Well done Lena!It was an unforgettable evening last night and i'm sure that although today's match against Anastasia will be very difficult the greek tennis fans will be there to support you again.
Aug 18th, 2004, 07:23 AM
IIt really is awesome to see Eleni winning . . i hope it can continue for her !!
Aug 18th, 2004, 08:06 AM
Does anybody have this match on the VHS?
Aug 18th, 2004, 11:10 AM
omg,congrats Eleni for that well fought match,but I fear she might be injured today.
Aug 18th, 2004, 03:00 PM
I finnaly found a pic from the opening ceremony
:hearts: :hearts: :hearts: thanks for the last photo,Gab.Now that's what I call a real cutie!!! :drool: :hearts:
Aug 18th, 2004, 03:07 PM
lol como sigas poniendo esas fotos de Lenita,voy a necesitar un cubo entero para mis babas!!!
Aug 18th, 2004, 03:13 PM
awwwww tengo otras pero son algo tristes, mejor no las pongo :sad:
Aug 18th, 2004, 03:16 PM
son las de las muletas? ya las he visto y si son :sad:
Aug 18th, 2004, 04:33 PM
Eh, what? Non comprende ;)
Aug 19th, 2004, 12:56 AM
Does anybody have this match on the VHS?
I would like also much to see this match, because with the French télévison, they did not show the match of Eleni.
Aug 19th, 2004, 01:09 AM
Eh, what? Non comprende ;)
It is not important ;)
Veronika called to Gabrielle that stop to put pictures sad of Eleni because if not it needs a bucket for its tears.
And gabrielle said that it has other pictures sad of Lena, therefore that it does not put them.
And Veronika answers him that it surely already saw them.
My Espagnol it's horrible, and my English it's very very horrible excuse me lol ;)
Aug 19th, 2004, 07:18 AM
Gosh, I thought Gabrielle is a girl. Sorry man ;) You have a beautiful name, like one of my fave actors, Gabriel Byrne :hearts:
Aug 19th, 2004, 10:33 AM
Gabrielle is a Girl... ;) but I speak Very bad English...