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18,536 Posts

18,536 Posts
As a bit of a holiday gift, and in honor of Ana's birthday, here's a translation...

The famous tennis player is enjoying a Christmas fairytale in Dubrovnik: "I'm really a Christmas type, love the smell of fritters, sight of lights and the buzz in the city"

Ever since childhood she was playing tournaments or doing preparations during holidays so it means a lot for her to be in Dubrovnik this time, where she'll wait for Christmas in the family circle.

Ana Konjuh, who will soon celebrate her 22nd birthday, popped up to her hometown briefly. Between specially organized practice sessions, due to another elbow surgery which brought a lighter schedule to her life these past few months, she is enjoying Dubrovnik Christmas fairytale. She loves to spend advent in Dubrovnik, says she is a total 'Christmas type' and loves everything about the holiday season.

Ever since she was a kid she would always spend holidays preparing or traveling to tournaments, so time in her hometown means a lot, although soon she'll have to head off to Zagreb, for continuation of her tennis preparations.

"It's rare that I see the whole family and we get together whenever we can, it's a special feeling when the holidays come, although here in Dubrovnik it's Christmas Eve that's actually the most important and the most beautiful. It's actually something unique, and dearest to me," says Ana, who is a part of a large and close-knit family, mostly made of women. "There's us, four sisters, one of them has two daughters, and our paternal uncle also has four daughters, so when we all get together..." she laughs, while her niece Valentina is constantly around her.

Holiday lights in the city, neverending events and all the delicious smells spreading around us are irresistable, so Ana also couldn't manage to stay away from something she considers the ultimate holiday treat - fritule (fritters), or as they're called in Dubrovnik, prikle. Those covered in chocolate.

"That's it for me, I do have a sweet tooth and I can't have enough of them. Once I smell them, I'm in the Christmas mood right away" - says Ana. Although she is taking a break from tennis courts for now, she had to mention the one in the city, which is temporarily transformed into an ice rink: "I really shouldn't skate, if someone bumps into me I could break something." But she found the courage and did a few laps among kids, who couldn't wait long enough to put the skates on. Nearby there's a small Christmas train ride, and while Ana was taking a photo in one of the nearby attractions, a giant red Chirstmas ball, the train drove by and made a whistle as a lot of children and adults alike waved to Ana. City behind the walls is a special story indeed, with stalls that offer something for everyone, lights and events, it all came to life. So the talk of food and Christmas traditions is inevitable.

"Mom is in charge for the Christmas Eve meal, which we find special and actually our favorite. Food there is abundant to say the least. And to not head off to town, for me is like there are no holidays at all. That's the best part. We all get together, get the holiday cheer on, we sing and head off to show ourselves, see those we love, and then the best part comes - kolenda (carolling) at noon. The most beautiful day of the year, and the most beautiful feeling in the world! After that we head home for a family meal, afterwards to church for the children's mass, then back for some more time with friends and relatives and then to head off for the midnight mass... I adore Christmas Eve! - says Ana, whose family has changed the Christmas Day traditions a little bit.

"Since we have little ones in the house, there's no waiting for Christmas to open presents. They're tired late at night, they barely stay awake after all the events, so recently we introduced opening of gifts on Christmas Eve, while they're awake and they love it - says Ana, who is still enjoying her grandma's kitchen on Christmas. For her, nothing has changed since childhood, when it comes to holidays. "My mom always makes an effort to make everything really nice for us on Christmas, and when I compare how it used to be and how it is now, it's all the same to me. Being together is what we find to be the real spirit of Christmas, and we all make an effort to create it. And that Christmas morning from the movies, where everyone is opening presents and laughing, we don't have that. Mom is pressuring a bit more so that we wake up on time, and then at grandma's the feast awaits, with everything that we all love - barbecue, fried potatoes, everything baked, cooked, sweet..."

This year Ana will head off to a skiing resort, but only for some sledging and snowball fights, she shouldn't ski, except on the smallest course, but she is looking forward to it anyway, cause she didn't take such a vacation for years. She is also looking forward to New Year's Eve, which she always tried to spend somewhere in the open, if she wasnt' seriously practicing at the time. "Last year it was really lovely, we've spent the celebration at Sljeme mountain, with fireworks which I absolutely love, and this year, we'll see, I'll go where the fireworks are!"

18,536 Posts
An interview from mid November of last year

Konjuh for Sportklub: Wimbledon is my only dream

Ana opens up about the tough times of her career...

Nine months with no tennis and with plenty injury problems. That was the 2019 of Ana Konjuh. Three surgeries in two years, a comeback, then problems again. For us she opened up about the difficult moments of her career. But during the interview she pretty relaxed and in a good mood.

"Everything's OK for now, I've started practicing a bit, three times a week for 1 hour. For now there's no major pain so I'm lookng forward to the future."

You're still recouperating, you've only started practicing a month ago. How does your current practice session look like, compared to when you were in top form?

"I play a lot less hits. I practice three times a week, some 140 forehands, just as many backhands, along with some 30 serves, but with foam balls. We raise the hits count weekly, depending on how the elbow is respondning, and we're also focusing a lot on fitness right now so I'm some 3 hours in the gym. Everything's going according to plan at the moment."

For those who don't know, you've had 3 surgeries in 2 years. How is the elbow doing?

"At first, I came to the doctor and he told me I could have surgery as soon as tomorrow, or take some time and think about the treatment. So I did the surgery the next day, it was tough and painful, for the first 8 weeks after surgery I wasn't allowed to take pain killers because the procedure involved stem cells. But 9 months later I feel good, and everything is going well."

Since now you've been more at home than playing tournaments, you've spent more time in public. Do people recognize you on the streets?

"Sometimes. Mostly, even if they notice, they google to make sure it's me, but mostly it's all sweet, they ask to take a picture with me etc., eventhough I haven't been present in the media lately."

Is 2020 the season of your comeback, or is the real goal 2021? Will you choose tournaments more carefully and play less? If so, the season ahead can serve to come back into form, the feel for the court and return to the tennis world.

"Honestly, I don't know. We were planning for March or April for comeback, if all goes like we hope. Usually the comeback after this sort of surgery can take anywhere from 9 to 18 months. I wouldn't like to try to predict if the season will be good or not, but I'll surely be careful about how much I play, about surfaces, everything depending on what's the best for the elbow. Results will come, sooner or later."

Is there a plan in terms of, wether to play challengers or go for WTA events straigth away? Can you enter some events with the protected ranking?

"I have a PR of 255, my timing was bad, so I doubt it'll be enough for slams, but I'm allowed to take ti for 6 events, although I don't think I'll be playing WTA level right from the start. I'll probably be looking for some easier matches to start things off."

You've won the event in Nottingham in 2015 and became the youngest title winner in almost a decade. Is that your favorite moment as a player or those two junior grand slams? Maybe the QF at the 2016 USO?

"I'd definately point out that QF in New York and Nottingham title, which I won at 16 years of age, I think. I love playing on grass, it's my favorite surface. There was also R4 at Wimbledon in 2017, which was a year with several good results and so I came to my best ever ranking and reached top 20. So whatever future brings, I think I can be proud of what I've achieved."

Where does that love for grasscourts comes from? Most of the courts in Croatia are on clay, with a few hardcourts. How does a girl from Dubrovnik learn to love grasscourts, when there are none at home?

"There's a lot of grass everywhere. I'm joking. I don't really like long points, this surface suits my game well cause I love to be the one who is in control of the point. Grass allows me that, so I love it ever since I was a junior."

When you were first starting out, you were being nicknamed Baby Serena. Is she your main role model, I remember you mentioning Clijsters and Li?

"I wouldn't call her my role model, those you mention were closer to that. Although, you can't deny that she is one of the greatest ever and that she's done some incredible things in this sport. I hope I'll get to play her before she retires."

How much time do you really have to socialize on Tour? Are true friendships possible, or you're just spending time because you're colleagues? I know you've played Bencic even in junior days since you're from the same generation.

"Yeah, I know Belinda since we were both kids, there's also Kasatkina and Ostapenko. It was a good generation, you can tell by results. Tennis is a sport where you spend most of your time with your team, but you can always find some to go out to dinner and have some fun."

How is Antonio Veic as a coach, you've been working together for two years now?

"He's not here at the moment, he joined the Davis Cup team in Madrid."

How do you like the new Davis Cup, cause Fed Cup is heading for the similar system as of next year?

"Change is always difficult, especially in tennis. Everyone was used to how things were, playing at home will be especially missed, cause that's now gone. I wish our guys all the best, although they're not there with the best team. There's been a lot of negative talk about the team lately. The sacking of Krajan, absences of Cilic and Karlovic, we're waiting to see what Dodig does at the final masters."

Do you think it could've all been done in a nicer fashion, without involving the media?

"We live in Croatia, after all. I don't know the whole story, so I wouldn't like to get deeper into it. Every coin has two sides, everyone has their reasons."

Fed Cup team. Two top 20 players, Vekic and Martic, you are also coming back, what do you think of our chances for that day when we hopefully make it to the world group?

"I think we have a chance to do good, we also had a lot of chances in the past, but there was always that little something messing with us. We weren't really like these past years, but if we'll all play and be in good form, I think we have what it takes to make a good result."

You've been asked a lot lately about plan B, if you can't continue with tennis? You said you'll either be a fashion designer, or a wedding planner. Is there a chance we see you with your own clothing line?

"Everyone who has that is already a legend of this sport, so I'm not there yet. Yes, I'd love to have my own line some day, that'd be really nice, but who knows what the future holds. Right now I want to come back to tennis and not think about plan B for as long as I don't have to."

Once you've said that you'll play tennis until 28 or 30 years of age and than focus on starting a family. Is that plan still open?

"Time flies, I can tell you that. I don't intend to play until 35, I want to be a mom and have a family, although I first have to find someone for that."

If you could choose one tennis partner for Wimbledon, who were be the lucky ones? One guy for the mix and a girl for standard doubles?

For mix it'd be Mekta (Nikola Mektic). We've already played together and Wimbledon, so I think we'd be good. For women's doubles Kiki Mladenovic. We've never played, but she is really good, she's got a good forehand and backhand, so I think we'd suit eachother well."

This is probably the greatest compliment for Mektic, choosing him over Federer or Nadal?

"Haha, I've had a chance to play with him and we're good friends, so the atmosphere would be good."

What would you love to win the most - Wimbledon, WTA finals or gold at the Olympics?

"Definately Wimbledon. It's my favorite slam, that's actually what we all dream as kids."

Of other sports, I know you like soccer and waterpolo, you're from Dubrovnik, after all. I also heard you've become a huge fan of NFL?

"Haha, I've started following it recently. I've been to the States a bunch of times, it was always on TV, it lasts for hours, so I've googled the rules and got hooked. I watch the games regularly. I'm rooting for San Francisco 49ers. Unfortunately they lost yesterday, but it's a very interesting sport and I'd love to see it live."

I've looked into it all a bit before this interview, and it seems you're following just one club and one quarterback on social media, so it wasn't hard to figure out. We'll be showing them on our chanel in the next two weeks, first against Arizona, then vs. Green Bay. How come you're rooting for them, they're not close to any tournaments, apart from IW, which starts once the football season is already over?

"Yeah, they're now in primetime, they're popular. There was a tournament in Stanford, but I also have relatives in San Francisco, I've been there many times, and when I started googling about the team, I like their coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch, they all seem like one big family."

Our famous rower Martin Sinkovic is a huge fan of Green Bay Packers, he showed me pictures and a video, he says that a real fan must epxperience that in person. Do you have plans to go on a game?

"Unfortunately, our seasons don't really match, it's tough to adjust the time, especially with different continents as well. But I'd definately like that in the near future."

Do you have a message for our viewers who are expecting the return of tennis eagerly?

"I've enjoyed this interview and I hope we'll be seing eachother soon, and that you'll be cheering me on when it happens."

3,001 Posts
"She's back......" May 25th twitter pick. Ana K will be playing a Croation exho with Donna Vekic amongst others on the 4th of June......

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