|Madison Keys (photo by Daniel Ward)|
Top seed Madison Keys started things off with a firm declaration that she's not comfortable on clay, but she's working on getting more comfortable. Something clicked for her last year, she said, and I realized that "...you can't hit a winner from ten feet behind the baseline on this surface; I just got a lot better at building points and not panicking if the point isn't over in three balls."
She said that recently, she had an opportunity, for the first time, to spend over a month just working on fitness, and that her fitness level has increased. (As a committed sled pusher/puller, I talked with her about the recent addition to her regimen of sled exercises; she doesn't seem to like the activity as much as I do--yet; it's a love-hate thing, and it takes time.)
|Venus Williams (photo by Daniel Ward)|
Asked about Serena's Snapchat habit of asking Venus why she isn't wearing any pants: "I don't like pants--what can I say?"
|Kiki Bertens (photo by Daniel Ward)|
Bertens credited a heavy forehand with bringing her clay court success. She said her overwhelming success in Fed Cup play comes from loving team sports. Years ago, she had to choose between playing tennis and playing on a handball team.
2010 champion Sam Stosur, who has become a Charleston dining specialist, entertained us with a list of all of her restaurant reservations. Stosur spends her birthday here, and is a devoted participant in the tournament. We all reminisced about her stunning performance (and Vera Zvonareva's incredible racket breaking) in the 2010 final. The Australian star said she thought it was the best match she had ever played, and no one was going to argue with that.
Daria Gavrilova said that she practiced on some green clay courts in Key Biscayne before she left Miami. She said she's been working hard and feels very motivated, and she described herself as a positive person. Gavrilova, who is Russian by birth, talked about how she was influrnced by Maria Sharapova. "When she won Wimbledon, it was very big in Russia [pause] Not really in Russia--nothing's big in Russia."
|Elena Vesnina (photo by Daniel Ward)|
Vesnina said that studying sports psychology (she has a degree in the subject) has helped her a lot in terms of setting goals and managing a long-term sports career. "It's the same thing in the life," she added.
The Russian star talked about the fact that tennis provides more opportunities than other sports to "start over" and make up for losses. But, she added, the constant travel and changes in climate are especially difficult for the professional tennis player. She said that some players eat, sleep and breathe tennis, but that she cannot be that way, and that she needs to have emotional connections with other players.
Vesnina said it has helped her to observe how other veteran players take care of themselves. "It's a bit difficult to recover, but you know how to work with this." She said it was important to "listen to your body."
I asked her if--at any time during the Indian Wells final--she was aware that she was a participant in a major thriller, and she said "no, not at all." The first thing that came to her mind after match point, she said, was "it's over."
"I was down the whole match....At one point, I felt like 'everything is against me in this final.'" But she kept fighting, and she said that when she served for the match at 5-4 in the third set, she felt totally confident.