Wednesday, September 9, 2009
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. What was the funny story about the T shirt? Sorry, my Flemish isn't all that good.
YANINA WICKMAYER: Well, before my match against Kuznetsova in New Haven I went to see a shop just behind the hotel just to relax a little bit. I saw two T shirts, but they were pretty expensive.
So I said if I win tomorrow, if I beat Kuznetsova, I'm going to get them. I lost 7 6 in the third, so I didn't go get them because I wanted to be honest to myself.
We got into the car, we started driving to New York, and after a couple of miles my dad went to the back and get me my two T shirts. He thought I deserved them, anyway.
Q. With all the coverage Melanie Oudin is getting, you were pretty much under the radar. This has been a surprise Open for you, too. Has it surprised you? Has it helped you that you have been under the radar?
YANINA WICKMAYER: It has surprised me in one way. I have been feeling really well the last few weeks. I've been playing a couple of great matches, and I'm really playing under a lot of confidence.
So coming here I was feeling pretty good, and physically and mentally I was feeling really strong. So the first couple of matches, yeah, of course you're always a little bit surprised of winning great matches in a Grand Slam.
For sure if it's the first great Grand Slam you've played, because before this my best result was second round. So of course when you get to the third, fourth round, you start surprising yourself. But actually, I've been staying pretty calm. I've worked really hard for this.
Yeah, every match I can win, I'm really excited and I'm really happy to be here.
Q. What clicked for you in this tournament that wasn't there earlier in the year?
YANINA WICKMAYER: Well, the last couple of weeks I lost some tight matches to the top players. I lost 6 4 in the third, 7 6 in the third. So it was always like those few key points that I lost.
Yeah, I guess now those key points I just feel more concentrated physically and mentally. I feel stronger on the court. I'm sure that those two points has helped me a lot this few weeks.
Q. Can you talk about coming to the United States and what it's like and how often you're in Belgium?
YANINA WICKMAYER: Well, I only lived here for two and a half years. I was here from about '99 till 2001, and then I went back home. From then on I'm just in Belgium. I've been practicing in Belgium since then.
Q. When you were here you were at Saddlebrook?
YANINA WICKMAYER: Yeah, I was at Saddlebrook, yeah.
Q. What brought you here? What sent you back?
YANINA WICKMAYER: My mom was sick when I was six or seven. She got ill. So she was at home. She was treated at home, so yeah, I was being with her all the time. I lost her in '99, and I just started playing tennis a few weeks or a few months before that just to get my mind off things.
I guess I just decided as a little girl to get away from home and put my memories and thoughts to something else, so we moved to Florida just to, yeah, my dad and me, just to get things off, just to, yeah, focus ourself on other things in life and try to move on.
And, well, after two and a half years we felt a lot better. We were like living our lives and being happy to live, and, yeah, being happy to see the next day arrive.
It's been a really tough time for me, but if I see now it's been one of the best decisions I've ever made, just going there and putting my mind off things.
Well, after two years and a half, I'm still Belgian. I'm still Belgian. I have all my friends and family at home. So, yeah, we just decided then it was time for me to go back home and live my life just the way it has to be.
Q. Did you speak much English when you moved to...
YANINA WICKMAYER: Not a word.
Q. What was that whole experience like?
YANINA WICKMAYER: Well, it started by showing, yeah, the teachers that this was a forehand and this was a backhand, and just like trying to use my hands and trying to hear stuff from other people. Yeah, I just picked it up and tried to learn.
Q. What was it like going to regular class, academics?
YANINA WICKMAYER: Yeah, well, I went to school when I was home, also, so it was yeah, in the beginning it was pretty hard because I didn't understand anything. Yeah, in the beginning I did everything on the computer so I could translate every word. Yeah, and at the end I just tried to learn, tried to speak more, tried to understand stuff.
Yeah, every night I was busy just translating words and just trying to understand. So, yeah, it was tough for me, but it was pretty exciting to learn a new language. It was at that time my second language, so it was really exciting, though.
Q. Can you talk about the influence of Kim and Justine? Justine, it sounds like, had a similar story to yours in losing her mother at a young age.
YANINA WICKMAYER: Yeah, her story is a bit similar, I think. I don't really have a lot of contact with Justine. She's part of the other side of Belgium. Yeah, I just think she yeah, she has her own way of dealing with things.
I respect her a lot. I appreciate a lot what she has been doing for Belgian tennis. She's a great champion. Maybe she's coming back; maybe not. We'll see.
But yeah, Kim is I have more contact and more personal contact with Kim now than with Justine. I don't know why. I think we're just from the same part of Belgium, and that makes us a little closer, I guess.
Yeah, Justine has dealt with it in a really great way. I think she has given a lot of wins to her mom. I think that's great.
If you can be a big champion and do stuff and really feel well about playing and, yeah, achieving your goals, I think that's great.
Q. When did you meet Kim the first time?
YANINA WICKMAYER: Oh, I can't remember when. My guess on a tennis court somewhere, but I don't remember when.
Q. When you came to the U.S., you came to get away from a situation and to learn how to play tennis...
YANINA WICKMAYER: Yeah.
Q. When did you decide that you wanted to be a professional tennis player?
YANINA WICKMAYER: Um, I think it just came like weeks by weeks and months by months. I just started enjoying it really well, and I really loved the game. I really enjoyed working hard and playing a lot of hours during the day, because at the academy we practiced a lot during the day. We're always busy.
So that was a good thing for me. I could focus on other stuff. I really enjoyed playing. I was playing with other kids, so it made me really enjoy the game. Yeah, I guess during the second and the third year, yeah I started getting better and playing tournaments and competing in the nationals in the U.S., under 14, under 12.
So, yeah, I really enjoyed playing then. When I got back home I went to the federation. That's where I started. That's when I really decided well, not really decided I want to be a professional, because saying that as an 11, 12 year old girl is pretty tough.
But, yeah, I really love playing. Once I was 15, 16, I just told myself I want to give everything I have and give it a shot.
Q. There's an obvious chance that you may meet Kim in the finals. Has that ever crossed your mind?
YANINA WICKMAYER: Well, there are a lot of people that told me. They told me already from the first round that we're on the other side, so I guess it's been an old story already. But, well, let's hope, I guess. Let's all hope we can meet each other in the final.
But let's be honest, we both have a really tough match in front of us. She has Serena in front of her which is going to be a great match, and really excited of seeing that one. I don't know my opponent yet, so as soon as I know my opponent I'm going to try and get everything, yeah, focus and preparing myself for the next round.
Yeah, it's going to be a tough semis, but, yeah, let's hope.
Q. If Melanie Oudin wins tonight, you're going to be facing her with the home crowd backing her 100%. Is that going to be a harder situation for you?
YANINA WICKMAYER: No, not really. For me the important thing is that the people that are behind me, they are sitting in their box and they're behind me. I know that they are supporting me with their hearts and their soul. And those people, as long as they're behind me and supporting me, I'm happy.
Q. How much does what you went through as a young girl with your mother, how much does that help you when you're out on the court and you're having a tough time? You've known the bigger things in life, and you've managed through.
YANINA WICKMAYER: Well, I guess it's just given me a great mentality and a fighting spirit on the court. I'm just someone that never gives up. Even today when I'm almost 5 1 down, I just keep on going and keep hanging there and keep fighting. That's what I try to, yeah, express on the court and try to have next to the court, also.
I know what life is, and maybe I'm older in my head than some people think. Sometimes it's not easy for me, because sometimes I wish I could be a girl from 19 and just enjoy, you know. But I guess that's life. That's the way life goes. Things just happen.
But I found a way to learn with it and to live with it. Every day I'm on the court, I just enjoy every minute and enjoy every moment. Yeah, I guess things just happen in life, but it's not only me. Other people have other things to, yeah, to live with, also.
So, no, actually it has given me a lot. It has taken away a lot from me, but I just found a way to live with it.
Q. Do you remember watching some of these wonderful matches between Kim and Justine? And where were you and what were you thinking?
YANINA WICKMAYER: I guess the last ones I all watched, because I was playing myself. Well, they had some amazing matches. Yeah, I guess Justine, yeah, won on clay most of the time. Justine beat her here in the US Open Series.
So, yeah, they're just two great champions. Even Justine won more Grand Slams, I think they're both just great. Kim is an unbelievable person. Next to the court, I think Justine has a great mentality off the court to help people. She's doing a lot of charity stuff. They're just two gait people.
Actually, it's not sad, but, yeah, they were there at the same time. They always played each other, and one had to win; one had to lose. So I guess maybe that time is coming back. Who knows?
Q. Who would you rather play in the semifinal? Who would you like to play?
YANINA WICKMAYER: I really it doesn't matter. I've never played one of them, so it's going to be the first time playing them if it's Caroline or Melanie.
Either way, I'm just going to have to go out there and play my game again, so let's just wait for today what happens.
Q. How would you characterize Wozniacki as a player?
YANINA WICKMAYER: I don't know. I've not really watched her play a lot, so I'm going to watch a little bit on TV today. But like I said before, every match I play, I just go on the court and play my own game.
Sometimes I'll adjust a little bit during my match, but not really a lot. I just go out there, have fun, and do everything I can.
Q. What is it that's worked so well for you during this tournament?
YANINA WICKMAYER: I think I've worked so hard the last few years getting my physical and my mentally in a good level. I think it's just all coming together this week. The last weeks I felt like it was going to come. I was really feeling well on the court. Everything was putting was getting together.
So physically I've been feeling really strong this week, and mentally I've been always trying to stay calm and stay aggressive at the same time. So I think that's one of the keys for me.
Q. Have you changed your practice or your...
YANINA WICKMAYER: No, not at all. I've always been someone that worked really hard, and I just think the work I've been into this the last few years is just paying off.
Q. When you came to the U.S., was there something about your dad sold his business or something?
YANINA WICKMAYER: Well, not only his business. He just gave up his whole life for me. Yeah, he just was a normal guy in Belgium. He had friends, he had family, he had cars, he had our house.
He just gave everything up for me. He just left. He listened to a girl that was nine years old and left his life, left his dreams. So I guess I'm always going to respect him for that. I think he's listening today, so he's just a great guy.
I think that the place I am right now, the semis I'm going to play tomorrow or the day after, the moments I live every day, it wouldn't be if he wasn't there. So he's the only person that has always stood next to me. He's always been there for me, even in the bad and the good moments. He's always respected me and always tried to do the best he can.
So, yeah, I have no words for what he done. I think there is no way of thanking him in any way for what he did, but I hope with my semis here this week I can show him that I really thank him for everything he's done.
Yeah, it's been great spending my whole life with him.
Q. Is he here in New York?
YANINA WICKMAYER: Yeah, he's right there. (laughter.) He told me it's the first time he comes to a press conference. He just wanted to see how everything works.
(Amazing interview. You can find it or any other on www.usopen.org, btw)