You’re an Olympic gold medalist. You’re a Grand Slam champion. And you have big dreams for your tennis career.
Then you’re the youngest player to ever reach No. 1. And then, right around your 21st birthday, you find yourself playing in the first Grand Slam tournament of the season, a tournament you’ve never previously even qualified for.
The US Open is a challenge for almost everyone. Right now, though, you are the No. 1 player in the world. So how do you feel about being the youngest in the draw?
It’s like any player…in every tennis tournament you can face opponents who are older than you, who are ranked higher than you, who are better and so on. That’s nothing different here, so as a player it’s a good thing because there’s more pressure for me to win matches and more pressure on my serve. But it’s not my only worry. We have very high expectations from my family and my team, and also the organization of ATP, and we have high expectations that winning the tournament would be amazing and this would really help us to get into the discussion again as being one of the biggest players. At the same time, I think it would be a great honor for me to play against many of the best players in the world. And so it’s not just for me, it’s for my whole team and the tournament and also the US Open.
Are you working with coach Luca Cimbri?
I had a great relationship with Luca. He was very important for me from the beginning when I was 14 or 15 years old, when I came to the top 100 to the world No. 1. Luca is now with someone else as the coach, and my relationship with Luca will remain very good, because we know one another, we have a very close friendship, and I’m sure we will be close again one day.
You went to the French Open with Luca. Did he talk to you about it as the first Grand Slam you’ve played on an outside court?
[Laughs] We talked about it, but a couple days ago I still didn’t understand why everyone was talking about it. I was so relaxed about it. I didn’t know that it would be an important tournament for me. And I really didn’t have any emotions and the only thing I was thinking about was every point in a simple way because it was the first time on court, and I didn’t understand why people were talking about it. I didn’t want to talk about it to everyone. And yes, it was a bit different, and it was a bit different for me. But it was absolutely great. I could go for a few practices after the tournament, so it was fun.
And now the US Open is your next challenge.
If I win the tournament, all the hard work that I did during Wimbledon last year in particular is going to pay off, so I think that’s the most important goal. But yes, having the US Open is good for me. It was a better tournament last year, and I hope this year I will win it.
A lot of people look at the tennis landscape in tennis at the moment, particularly with the retirements of top players like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Is there a sense of urgency for young players like you to break into the top echelon of tennis, or does it depend on your approach to the game?
It depends on your approach, of course. At the same time, there are some players who train really hard in their winters and come back to the first tournament in January and win the tournament.
For example, at the end of last year, I was No. 76. I had a good preparation for Wimbledon. The pressure is nothing like when I’m No. 1, or when I was No. 2. So I think it doesn’t really matter. I think if you have a good winter and you train in the best conditions, then most of the players can make it. Now the goal for me is to play better in the tournaments and even better in the matches, but obviously play the best I can in that. That’s what my goal is.
This article originally appeared on Newser: Will Youngest U.S. Open Hopeful Be the Best Player?
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