Everyone thought Caroline Wozniacki was crazy when she decided to do the New York Marathon including her father and the rest of her team.
Why would you put your body through marathon training when you’re already playing a 10-month season of tennis, touring the entire globe?
But it looks like Wozniacki might end up having the last laugh. Since she announced she was going to run in the event – which takes place on November 2 – the Dane has made the US Open final, returned to the top 10 and seems to be in the best shape of her life as she outlasted Maria Sharapova in a three-hour 13-minute battle on Tuesday.
It’s almost like training for a marathon would actually be a good thing for tennis players. But Wozniacki wouldn’t take it that far.
She says: “I probably wouldn’t recommend it. It’s helped me, but I don’t think it’s something that I want to do every year.
“Running a marathon and doing this much running, it’s not easy. I think to do it once while you’re playing I think is enough. I think because I find it so exciting and so I’m looking forward to running, I think that also keeps me going.
“At the same time, it gets me in great shape. To do it year in and year out, I don’t think it’s possible. Our bodies get a beating already. I don’t think it’s necessary to do this again while I’m on tour.”
— Caroline Wozniacki (@CaroWozniacki) July 31, 2014
Warm-up leaves Petra cold
Petra Kvitova joked that her coach David Kotyza might be the reason she unexpectedly lost to Agnieszka Radwanska on Tuesday.
The behind-the-scenes camera showed Kvitova and Radwanska in the warm-up room as they waited for the Wozniacki-Sharapova match to end.
While Radwanska was running on the treadmill, Kvitova was seen sitting on the ground, her back against the wall, with Kotyza funnily bouncing a football off her head.
We asked her if that is a regular pre-match routine for her, getting footballs thrown at her head.
“It was the first time… You saw what happened on the court after that, so probably it’s his fault then,” joked the Czech world No3.
Just 15 months ago, Marion Bartoli seemed at the peak of her WTA career, lifting the Wimbledon trophy on Centre Court, wrapping up the unlikeliest of title triumphs at the All England Club.
This week, the 30-year-old is in Singapore, not as one of the top-eight players who have qualified for the WTA Finals, but as one of the ‘legends’ invited to play in a newly-introduced tournament that will go alongside the season-ending championships.
The Frenchwoman, who abruptly drew the curtains on her career in August last year, just five weeks after winning Wimbledon, finds herself in the company of the likes of Martina Navratilova and Tracy Austin – who are two decades her senior.
Bartoli’s decision to retire was sudden and unexpected. She made the announcement in Mason, Ohio, of all places, after losing her second round match to Simona Halep.
“Body-wise, I can’t do it anymore,” a tearful Bartoli said at the time. “My body was really starting to fall apart and I was able to keep it together, go through the pain throughout this Wimbledon and make it happen. That was probably the last bit that was left inside me.”
This year at Wimbledon, she was ushered onto the court to be honoured as the reigning champion before the first women’s match kicked off and she spent the fortnight there as part of BBC’s commentary team.
She was asked whether she had any regrets over her retirement and she said what she has been constantly reiterating: “I don’t miss every morning having to wake up and not being able to lift my arm; having my whole body terribly sore. So definitely no regrets at all. I moved on into something different.”
That “something different” has been her venture into the world of fashion. Bartoli’s new career came to life just as quick as her retirement. She launched her shoe line at the French Open last June and showcased her new jewellery line here in Singapore.
Add to that her regular commentating duties at tournaments – which started two weeks after her retirement – her numerous media commitments and appearances in exhibition matches and you get the sense that Bartoli never really took a break to savour life without tennis.
“I’ve been really busy after my retirement,” she says. “Because I had other passions outside tennis throughout my career which was designing, creating and painting and I knew I wanted to explore that right away after my tennis career.
“I was able to put a plan together and stick to it, and to be at the point I am now, which is extremely advanced, I’m really happy with the way things have been moving.”
In a way, her diving straight into work has helped her avoid any post-retirement blues.
“You can have a massive hole inside your life because all of a sudden the schedule and the routine you were in stops, and you don’t really know how to replace that,” Bartoli adds. “So I think getting yourself, towards the end of your career, starting to think about the next chapter is absolutely critical to get into your new life on a positive note.”
In that respect, Bartoli has done very well for herself. In fact, she’s even thought about her life many years from now.
Asked whether she sees herself coaching a player in the future, the way her good friend and compatriot Amelie Mauresmo is with Andy Murray, Bartoli said it’s something she’d be interested in.
“Obviously, you won’t be a full-time coach, 32-plus weeks of travel, because that’s what I’ve been doing all my tennis career and it’s not something I’m willing to do anymore,” she says.
“But to coach, like maybe Boris Becker is doing with Novak Djokovic – to coach for a few specific weeks and to be around some important grand slam winner, it’s definitely something that maybe in six or seven years’ time from now could be a refreshing point and something I definitely would think about.”
Mauresmo was part of team Bartoli during her dream Wimbledon in 2013. She helped her handle the pressure and be prepared for the final, which was her second one at SW19 having been runner-up to Venus Williams in 2007.
“In my first Wimbledon final, the main difficulty I had to face was playing the semi-final against Justine Henin on Friday night, finishing extremely late, and then I had to be on court again the next day at 2pm,” she recalls.
“So I felt it was almost coming right after already putting so much effort into getting into the final and winning my semi-final. I didn’t have the time at all to get ready for the final and that was something that mentally was very hard to deal with.
“On the other side, I think Venus was just too good for me on the day. So the whole combination was very hard.
“But it was a great experience and it definitely helped me to deal with all of that in my second one (in 2013).”
She may insist she has no regrets over her career or retirement, but asked if there is something she’d like to see change in tennis, Bartoli says: “Sometimes maybe the public, the crowd need to have a little bit more entertainment because tennis can be very repetitive so maybe to do a little bit more like the NBA. To put something like the half-time show or something between sets but that’s just an idea, I don’t know if it would be possible to do.”
For now, Bartoli is relishing her new life, even if she’s unable to stay away from the sport she has been part of for so long. She went for a hit at the All England Club last Saturday – one more perk of being a Wimbledon champion is becoming a member of the world’s most exclusive tennis club.
“It’s probably one of the biggest honours you can get as a tennis player,” she admits.
Marion Bartoli will be speaking at the annual sports forum Doha GOALS 2014 from November 3-5 in Qatar.
Rematches don’t come around much faster than this. Petra Kvitova will take on Maria Sharapova in White Group action on Thursday just 18 days after the latter beat the former in the Beijing final.
Both players enter this match coming off unexpected defeats in their opening round robin clashes and each will be desperate for a victory that could put them closer to the semi-finals.
Kvitova is 2-6 against Sharapova overall and hasn’t beaten the Russian in any of their past five meetings.
The Czech world No3 last defeated Sharapova in 2011, once via retirement and once in the Wimbledon final – which was the first of two trophies Kvitova has picked up at the All England Club. That year, Kvitova also won the year-end championships – held in Istanbul at the time.
The 24-year-old has made the final in three of her last four tournaments – winning titles in New Haven and Wuhan – and arrived in Singapore in fine form, despite her three-set defeat to Sharapova at the China Open.
"We played Beijing final couple of weeks ago and it was a really good match from both of us. Unfortunately I lost, so I will do my best to beat her this time. She’s playing very aggressively, so we will see," said Kvitova.
For Sharapova, there’s a lot on the line as she could potentially replace Serena Williams at the top of the world rankings by the end of the tournament. Her chances of doing that took a hit however when she lost in three sets to Caroline Wozniacki on Tuesday.
It was a lengthy affair that lasted three hours and 13 minutes but the five-time grand slam champion is not worried about recovery, saying she’s confident she’ll be in good shape against Kvitova.
"Physically I’ve had a great year and felt really good. My shoulder has held up incredibly well, and that’s been the biggest key for me. Of course these matches are quite tough considering you have to come out and expect yourself to play a few more, but overall I feel good.”
Meanwhile, Agnieszka Radwanska insists she won’t get carried away after her shock win over Kvitova as she prepares to face Wozniacki.
It is Radwanska’s sixth appearance in the WTA Finals but she is aware she hasn’t fared well in the competition in the past, accumulating a 6-7 win-loss record thus far.
"This is always a tough tournament because it’s the end of the year. I won the first match, so we still have a long way to go. But I think I feel much better than last year actually," said the Pole.
"I didn’t play too many matches in the last couple of weeks, so that helped a little bit as well. I think I had my lessons from other years how to prepare for this tournament. So I think I did everything right this year and I am really feeling good and ready to go."
Radwanska has known Wozniacki for 15 years and knows she has a tough battle ahead of her. She trails the Dane 4-6 head-to-head and lost their most recent clash in Cincinnati in August.