Biofile: The Nicole Vaidisova Interview
Years before Nicole Vaidisova became unstoppable she was already unbeatable in her first tournament appearance. Vaidisova's earliest tennis memory dates back to the day she won her first amateur title at the tender age of six.
Times have changed and so has Vaidisova. The girl who once played for club titles has grown into a teenager completely capable of beating the world's best players in the game's major events. The 18-year-old Vaidisova has scored Grand Slam tournament victories over Venus Williams, Amélie Mauresmo, Elena Dementieva and Anna Chakvetadze. A 2006 French Open semifinalist, Vaidisova advanced to the Australian Open semifinals in January, losing to eventual-champion Serena Williams. She followed that effort with quarterfinal appearances at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.
Martina Hingis, who reached her first French Open final in 1997 at the age of 16, beat Vaidisova in Rome last year, gaining a glimpse of the game that propelled Vaidisova to a career-high rank of No. 7 earlier this year. Hingis believes Vaidisova's fearlessness on court is partly a product of her youth.
"She still has more to give. Where, us, we're a little older, 26, you don't recover as fast any more," Hingis said. "There the freshness, being young, really comes into play. It's definitely an advantage. On the other hand, she's also got nothing to lose, so she just really goes for it. Somehow makes you feel young again when you see someone like that who is playing so well. Yeah, she's definitely got potential. She really speeds it up. She comes in, moves forward all the time, tries to attack. Big first serve. Not really a weakness. Moves well for her height."
A case of glandular fever has confined Vaidisova to the sidelines since she lost to Ana Ivanovic in last month's Wimbledon quarterfinals. Though she has skipped the entire U.S. Open Series, Vaidisova is still hopeful she will play the Open, which begins on Monday. She calls Flushing Meadows her favorite tournament.
"New York's my favorite tournament. Hard courts are my favorite surface," Vaidisova said. "And it was my first Grand Slam in general. Even in juniors it was my first Grand Slam. My first Grand Slam where I played in the stadium — first time I played the number one player in the world [Justine Henin], so, I just love it."
Even when she's not playing tournaments, Vaidisova is still an active presence on tennis telecasts as the start of the Citizen Watch Company's international "Unstoppable" ad campaign, which often airs on ESPN during its tennis coverage.
Scoop Malinowski caught up with the 14th-ranked Vaidisova for this Biofile interview.
5-foot-11, 139 pounds.
April 23, 1989 in Nurnberg, Germany.
"Probably Steffi Graf when I was growing up."
"I love to read. I read a lot. Also watching hockey. I live close to Tampa so I go and try to watch a couple matches. I do yoga. I love music and fashion. Bike riding."
"Kill Bill, I loved those. Sin City. Stuff like that."
Favorite TV Shows:
"I used to love Friends and Sex In The City. And from the old ones Full House probably."
"Everything except jazz and country, I'm into everything [laughs]. Madonna, Gwen Stefani, Will Smith."
Early Tennis Memory:
"First memory — winning my first tournament, just playing the first tournament. How nervous I was. And how good it felt to win, so (age six)."
"I love my mom's [cooking], she's a great cook, she cooks a lot. So, my mom's. And I also love Japanese."
Favorite Breakfast Cereal:
"What? Favorite breakfast cereal? Cheerios [smiles]."
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor:
"Any. Cookies and cream."
"A black Range Rover Sport."
"Excited, nervous, usually."
Greatest Sports Moment:
"I hope I haven't had a greatest one yet [smiles]. But probably winning my first tournament was really exciting (defeated Laura Granville in Vancouver in 2004)."
Most Painful Moment:
"Some losses probably. There's always tough losses, so."
"U.S. Open. (Why?) It all falls together. New York's my favorite tournament. Hard courts are my favorite surface. And it was my first Grand Slam in general. Even in juniors it was my first Grand Slam. My first Grand Slam where I played in the stadium — first time I played the number one player in the world [Justine Henin], so, I just love it."
Closest Tennis Friend:
"Probably Barbora Strycova."
Funniest Players Encountered:
"I think all the young girls I get along with very much, with Shahar Peer. And Kim [Clijsters] is a great person."
"I haven't played everybody yet, so, you know, I don't know, we'll see [smiles]."
Favorite Players To Watch:
"When I'm at home I don't really watch much tennis on TV [smiles]."
Favorite Athletes To Watch:
Embarrassing Tennis Memory:
"Luckily none yet [smiles]."
People Qualities Most Admired:
"Honesty. Probably sense of humor. Correct people."