By Ros Satar, in Stuttgart
- Agnieszka Radwanska arrives as top seed, and looks to make an impact on the clay this year
- Garbiñe Muguruza talks about the expectations on her after a breakthrough year with a run to her first Slam final
STUTTGART, GERMANY – Top seed Agnieszka Radwanska and Garbiñe Muguruza discuss their chances at this year’s Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.
With the main draw having started on Monday, all-access time with the top seeds and the press continued to rumble into action, following our time with defending champion Angelique Kerber.
Top seed Radwanska has a lot to erase from last year’s clay court season. She is certainly not averse to good results on the dirt, but last year turned out to be more muddy than perhaps she would have liked.
A very short-lived coaching relationship with Martina Navratilova perhaps quashed her confidence, and she was bounced out early here last year against Sara Errani.
She reflected: “Those couple of months weren’t great. I was feeling okay. I was doing everything right during the practice, I just couldn’t do it when I was going on the court for a match. I think I just didn’t have enough rest and I was physically a bit tired. And I was getting worse and worse. Instead of actually stepping back I was trying to do more and more and that wasn’t a good idea.
“So, I guess the best experience is from your own mistakes. Now, I know we are not getting any younger. It is different than when I was 20 years old and could do everything. Now, every match costs me much more energy than before. Now, I really have to think about the schedule a couple of times and think not only about the next week or two but about what is going to happen in a few months, if I’m going to be in the same shape and feel as fresh as at the beginning of the year.”
Indeed despite stepping away from their working relationship, Navratilova has continued to show interest in Radwanska game, but certainly 2015 was a year she would rather forget in terms of results, perhaps looking forward more to the grass and a surface she knows suits her game.
She explained: “[Stuttgart’s clay is] a bit faster but it’s also a bit slippery. So, it’s hard to move and hard to run and when you take running from me, I’m not happy. I’m used to run and I like to run. Well, it’s always the good and the bad side. The tournament is tough because it’s the first tournament on clay and you’re playing good players right away and this is always a very strong tournament.”
If running isn’t working, then maybe a switch to something like ice-skating will help her combat the slippery surface?
“Maybe I’ll try. If I’m not going to do good on clay this year I’ll try something different (laughs).”
Always a fan favourite and already far and away at the top of the WTA hot-shot awards, we should expect to see some award-winning creative shot-making skills – perhaps meriting it’s own end-of-year award.
She laughed: “I wish! I’ll have that award, this kind of nice trophy for nice shots. Yeah, why not?”
Compare and contrast the more confident demeanour of third seed Muguruza. It is almost expected of her to excel on a surface she grew up on, but she has shown her prowess equally on hard courts and perhaps even to her surprise on grass last year, when she had a run all the way to the final, beaten by Serena Williams in the last Slam she won.
Looking relaxed after a solid win for Spain against Italy in Fed Cup, she said: “It’s true that I spent a lot of hours on clay when I was younger. So, I grew up on clay. So, I kind of have this feeling that every time I touch clay, okay this is my territory. I guess that some people think that my style of game is not really matching, but I think I play quite good on clay.
“I think this clay is way more faster and the bounces are also more clean because it’s like a carpet, it’s like perfect. It’s just different for me like being in Spain growing up, it’s like so weird to play indoor clay. I just will have to adapt a little bit faster to the court.”
Muguruza looked to finish the year strong, looking far and away one of the favourites to make the WTA Finals, but it was Radwanska who confounded the odds at the end of the year to win the season ending final. The pressure can only mount as expectation is high on the Spaniard to live up to some promising performances last year.
She continued: “This year has not been an easy year. I guess everybody wants me to play like the last season which is normal. I also want to. But it’s obviously very difficult. I play on a very high level which is actually very hard to maintain. Yes, I have not so good tournaments, then better tournaments. I’m kind of thinking every tournament I go to I’m going to play good here and if it happens, it happens, if it doesn’t I say next week I have another one.”
There is, of course, the motivation of the car though. Muguruza has a family of car fans, and she enjoys a bit of a speedy spin, much to her mother’s alarm.
She said: “I love cars because I have two brothers and they are very into the cars. So, coming here, seeing that Porsche there in the corner, you know. My father puts pressure. He’s like, ‘you’re going to get that car, for me.’ (laughs) So, I know, it’s a good motivation. Obviously, all the top players come here and we are excited about the cars, it’s true.”
Muguruza starts her campaign on Wednesday evening, against Timea Babos, with Radwanska to play on Thursday.
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