Fighting jet lag and finding motivation at WTA Finals

blo4I arrived in Singapore on Tuesday night and I’m hoping the jet lag will be gone by Monday when I step on court for my first match at this year’s WTA Finals.

I’ve spent the last two months chasing the points I needed to qualify as one of the top eight players in the world, travelling from New York to Europe to China and now Singapore, and it feels great to have finally made it.

I’m not feeling too bad and I certainly hope to do better than last year, when I lost two of my three round-robin matches. Reaching the Finals is one of my goals every year and I know what it feels like to end the season on a high after winning on my debut in 2011.

There is not much time to rest when you arrive at the season finale, with all sorts of commitments off court as well as the need to practise, but fortunately I’m the sort of person who likes like to keep busy. Let’s just hope that the jet lag wears off after three or four days!

‘Playing without motivation is tough’

I’m especially happy to be here playing the WTA Finals after taking the most time off during a season that I think I ever have.

I took a month out earlier in the year, something I never really did before, so it was kind of a new experience but showed me that I can still come back, play well and stay in the top five. That’s great.

Winning three Premier titles along the way was amazing, as well as beating Serena Williams in Madrid, although of course I wanted to have some better results in the Grand Slams.

But I think you can always take something good from the bad things, so that’s what I’m trying to do, and I still have my motivation. I’m really happy to be here competing as one of the top eight.

This already feels like it has been a special season, but with the Fed Cup final against Russia to follow Singapore it could be a really great end to the year.

It won’t quite match up to Serena’s season, even though she won’t be playing in Singapore. I think she was very disappointed when she lost at the US Open, just two wins from completing the calendar Grand Slam, and it was then tough to find the motivation to play the end of the season.

Playing just because she has to is not really her way of playing. Playing without motivation is tough even for her, but I think what she did this year is great.

‘I’m not a fan of airplane food’

blo2I have been on some very long flights over the last two months, heading back from the US Open to Europe, then returning from China for a break in the Czech Republic before coming here to Singapore.

It can be tricky to cope with this kind of schedule, which means many, many hours in the air, but I’m lucky that I have no problem sleeping on a plane!

When you fly as much as I do, you get into a pretty familiar routine. I don’t do any exercises when flying but use compression socks, and spend as much time as possible lying down. I try not to eat much – I’m not a fan of airplane food, everything is just so weird.

I always take my book, my MP3, my phone and my computer. I like to watch movies – I just saw the documentary about Amy Winehouse, which was very good and emotional.

The other thing I always try to travel with by my side is my racquet bag. It’s kind of big and sometimes I have a bit of trouble with that, but usually I can persuade them to let it on!

‘I hit once a day and really give everything’

Unfortunately I lost early in Beijing and then couldn’t go to Moscow as planned, but it did give me a few extra days off to rest and recover, and then I had a really good practice in the Czech Republic.

blo3I think maybe Aga Radwanska, Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep arrived in Singapore before me. With only eight singles players at the tournament sometimes it can be more difficult to arrange practice but we are lucky with the players here this year and before the draw is made it’s a little bit easier.

We have the coaches to hit with as well but before the matches I think it’s just time to play some points and get the final touches from the coaches.

There is always a lot of work going on behind the scenes at a tournament and that’s even more true at the WTA Finals, where we have many activities during the day and you really have to set everything up.

It is for sure a big part of the coach’s job to make sure the tennis does not get neglected. I don’t think you can do much great practice here so we are trying to hit once a day and really give everything to the session, then we have the other commitments.

I’m happy how we’ve arranged everything and even though it’s still been a really long season for me, I feel OK now and ready for a challenging few weeks.

 

Petra Kvitova was talking to BBC Sport’s Piers Newbery

Nerves, new homes, replica trophies & joining legends

a3smallThe last time I came back to Wimbledon as the defending champion I really felt the pressure, and I’m sure it will be the same on Tuesday.

I was very nervous in 2012 and didn’t feel comfortable because I’d only played one match on the grass in Eastbourne, but I coped OK and managed to play quite well before losing to Serena Williams in the quarter-finals. There will be a lot of nerves again this time but I hope that experience helps me. Every year is different. This time I haven’t played any matches on grass because I got sick in Eastbourne, but I actually think that’s better than having lost in the first round there. At least I don’t feel negative about my game, and hopefully I will be 100% by the time I step on Centre Court at 1pm to play Kiki Bertens  [ranked 108] of the Netherlands.

Finding my feet on grass – a triumphant debut

I couldn’t feel any more uncomfortable than I did when I first stepped on a grass court in 2007, and yet I still went on to win the tournament. It was a junior event in Roehampton when I was 17 and the whole experience was really strange. I didn’t know what I should do but my game worked well on the grass, and I won six matches in a row.

Things didn’t go quite so well on my Wimbledon debut a couple of weeks later when I lost in the round of 16 in the girls’ singles, and in my first senior matches in 2008 and 2009 I didn’t play well. I was a little bit uncertain on the grass. It’s the feeling that it’s not solid underfoot, a bit softer and the footwork is a bit difficult. I also didn’t have the strong legs I have now; it’s a bit about how you work out. I didn’t play the game I should at that time but I was young and didn’t have experience. I finally found a way in 2011.

‘The replica is smaller than the real trophy’

By the time you get back to the locker room after winning Wimbledon, they have taken the trophy away, and you only get another glimpse of it at the champions’ dinner on the Sunday. You have to make do with a replica, which is about three-quarters the size of the real thing. I’m lucky enough to have two of them! My parents look after them, and all my trophies. I think it’s pretty special for them. Winning Wimbledon in 2011 was a bit of a surprise for everyone, including me. It was like I was in a dream and I didn’t realise what it meant. Last year I was a lot more experienced but it’s never easy. To win a Grand Slam you have to win seven matches in a row and it’s very different physically and mentally from other tournaments. Last year was especially difficult because I played three Czech girls in a row, and they are all good friends. That’s not easy but, for sure, I had improved not only as a tennis player but as a person and I was glad for the experience I had in 2011.

‘A home away from home’ in the village

I love the traditions and the history of Wimbledon, but unfortunately I don’t get to indulge in too many strawberries and cream – last year I had one strawberry! When you enter the gates of the All England Club you can feel the history of tennis. It’s the oldest and the best tournament in the world, and the one everybody wants to win. We rent a house every year and stay in Wimbledon village, which is amazing. You can walk into the club if you want and it feels like being at home, in your own house, where you can cook, put music on and just relax. I’m staying somewhere new this year but I won 2011 and 2014 in different houses, so I’m considering that good luck.

‘To join the legends would be incredible’

Of course I want to play well and do my best but I don’t compare myself with the legends of the game, I have a long way to go. To join the likes of Chris Evert  and Maria Bueno on three Wimbledon titles would be incredible but I know how tough it is. I’ll do my best, we’ll see. I’m certainly very proud to carry on the great tradition of Czech players. Probably Martina Navratilova is the biggest legend but I know many other Czechs played so well at Wimbledon, like Jan Kodes  [who won the men’s singles title in 1973]. I have a good friendship with Martina and it’s nice to catch up with her and talk sometimes. The Czechs have a great history but we are glad to have so many players with a high ranking right now – I think nine women in the top 100,  [second only to the United States, with 12]. It’s great for the kids to see on TV, who then maybe pick up a racquet. I don’t really think about my place within that history right now but maybe when I finish it will be a bit different.

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Petra Kvitova was talking to BBC Sport’s Piers Newbery