Gear Talk: Andrea Petkovic Q&A
The symphony of the streets—jarring jackhammers, bleating beeping of car horns and rumblings of subway cars beneath the sidewalk—was momentarily muted when the earth hiccuped on Tuesday afternoon. A couple of hours after the first earthquake to hit New York City in decades sent scores of people streaming out of office buildings in lower Manhattan, Andrea Petkovic was neither shaken nor stirred.
The world No. 11 spent some of her afternoon smiling while swinging her racquet without the benefit of a ball or a court inside the cavernous Pier 59 Studios overlooking the Hudson River. Petkovic performed the pantomime shots during a photo shoot for adidas, her apparel company.
Swinging without stress is an aim for Petkovic, who tore the meniscus in her right knee—the same knee in which she underwent surgery three years ago to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament—and played with taping around her right leg en route to her fifth semifinal of the season last week in Cincinnati. Though other seeded players, including Serena Williams and Tomas Berdych, withdrew or retired from the event, Petkovic said she'd rather perish than pull out.
"I’d rather die than retire," Petkovic said. "The audience comes and wants to see two semifinals. They pay a lot of money. I’m not the type of person to just withdraw and leave the audience out there. You know, when I go to concerts and the band comes two hours late and plays for 45 minutes and then they leave, then I’m really, really mad."
The 23-year-old Bosnian-born, German-raised daughter of a tennis teacher, Petkovic brought a dose of dance fever to the Grand Slam stage in January, pounding out a 6-2, 6-3 win over Maria Sharapova to advance to her first major quarterfinal at the Australian Open. She celebrated that moment with the distinctive Petko dance that was born off Broadway at the 2010 U.S. Open.
"It started off as a bet with my coach," said Petkovic. "He had an idea after I played a terrible summer season in the U.S. and I got Nadia Petrova in the first round of the U.S. Open, which was a tough draw for me back then. So he said, 'If you win, you have to do something special because it's a special match for us.' I won 7?6 in the third, so I got the inspiration of doing a dance."
Returning to New York this week fresh off two semis in her last three tournaments, the 10th-seeded Petkovic hopes to make some major moves at the Open—if her knee holds up.
Moments after her photo shoot, we caught up with the engaging Petkovic to discuss her gear, game, goals, health, and the prospect of possibly celebrating her 24th birthday with a Petko party at the U.S. Open.
TENNIS.com: How do you get your gear ready for a two-week Grand Slam? Are you practicing and training in the clothes and shoes you will wear at the U.S. Open next week? How do you break the shoes in for match competition?
Andrea Petkovic: Before the tournament, I have selected all of the outfits I am going to wear from the first round to the finals—even if I lose early.
TENNIS.com: That’s an optimistic approach.
Andrea Petkovic: It is optimistic, but on the other hand you want to be ready for any case. I always carry more with me than I actually need. So I always have enough outfits from the first match to the final, and of course you have to account for rain as well.
With the shoes, I am actually quite good so I get used to new shoes quite fast. I would never take new shoes out of the box and go right on court. I will take new shoes [in practice] at least two days before the match. Most of the time I use them for a week before I will wear them in matches. I do a long warm-up before the practice begins, a 20-minute warm-up, and that’s when I first wear them during the warm up. So I do all the little coordination stuff, really going through the cones and getting my feet comfortable with the shoes. Actually, these new Barricades are much more flexible. I needed not even a half an hour, I needed like 10 minutes to really feel comfortable in them in practice.
TENNIS.com: Do you wear orthotics with the new Barricades?
Andrea Petkovic: Yes, I do. I have orthotics and I always wear them. Actually, adidas plans that the athlete is going to wear orthotics with the shoe so they make them a little wider, and it’s not a problem when you have to fit them in because sometimes orthotics can be really thick and then you have problems.
WIN A PAIR OF ADIDAS BARRICADES AUTOGRAPHED BY ANDY MURRAY: To enter, please send your best haiku—three lines of poetry, the first five syllables, the second seven syllables, the third five syllables—that touches on both Andrea Petkovic and Andy Murray to: email@example.com. The subject of the email must be "Haiku". We'll email the winner during the first week of the U.S. Open.
TENNIS.com: We watched you play after you suffered the knee injury in your win over Petrova in Cincinnati. What’s the status of your knee and how do you feel less than a week before the start of the Open?
Andrea Petkovic: Well, I definitely have a tear in my meniscus and it’s still a little inflamed. The problem is really not actually the meniscus itself, because I have enough muscles to hold it. When I injured it, it was swollen up and all the water inside the knee is disturbing it and it’s not stable right now. So I am trying to get rid of the water on the knee right now and get rid of the swelling, and I think I’m going to be fine then.
TENNIS.com: When you’re playing with an injury like that do you try to just block it out? Or are you conscious and aware of what movement might put pressure or provoke pain on your knee?
Andrea Petkovic: Well it happened during the match against Petrova and I just blocked it out. Because I felt something was just not right at that moment, but I moved totally normally around the court and I just blocked it out. But I knew something was not right and I just wanted to finish the match, and with the adrenaline pumping and the muscles all warmed up, you really actually don’t feel it that much. But then an hour or two after the match, it started swelling up and then the pain came. But I think that’s what most athletes do when they feel it unless you have a major ligament tear or something broken, then you probably cannot continue. Something like this, I think most athletes just keep playing.
TENNIS.com: You had a great start to the year and strong clay-court season, reached the semis in two of your last three tournaments and cracked the Top 10 for the first time. Given that success and the current knee injury, what’s your goal for the U.S. Open and beyond?
Andrea Petkovic: My goal for the year was to be Top 20 and I’m past that now.
Tennis.com: Did you feel different in terms of your confidence on court after making the Top 10, or do you feel the same, just with a different number next to your name?
Andrea Petkovic: I didn’t feel different, though I did feel relief. It was like a weight went off my shoulders because it’s the thing everyone is looking for. And when I made it, I felt like, 'Okay, now I’m a Top 10 player and let’s just keep going.' Even if I drop out of the Top 10, I know that I have made the Top 10 and I have that achievement for life. It’s like winning a Grand Slam, it’s always going to be there.
TENNIS.com: You’ve beaten several Top 10 players this year—Kvitova, Wozniacki, Sharapova—do you get up for those matches more than you do against lower-ranked players, or is it more a feeling of knowing I’ve really got to bring it today because I’m up against a top player?
Andrea Petkovic: I think the thing is that I know against these players I have to play every point 150 percent. And with my fitness, which is obviously one of my biggest advantages, I know that I’m able to do that. Sometimes, against lower-ranked players, I don’t bring that 150 percent intensity to every point, that’s right now what I’m really working on and improving on. I think I did quite a good job right here in the last three weeks during the U.S. Open Series. Against the higher-ranked players I know I have to be intense every point and I can’t afford lapses. Against lower-ranked players sometimes I lose focus for two or three games. But they are still very good players. If you let down, they see, they smell it, they take advantage of it.
Now, the next goal for me is to be able to play each and every match—it doesn’t matter against who it doesn’t matter where it is, even if I’m playing on Court 16 with two people watching—to keep the intensity. That is what Rafa Nadal is doing incredibly well. It doesn’t matter who he is playing or where he is playing or which match of the tournament he is playing: He is always at 150 percent intensity. And that’s what Nole improved this year so much, and that is really one of my top goals for the coming weeks and months: that I can bring that 150 percent intensity in every point of every match.
TENNIS.com: English isn’t your first language but you speak and express yourself very well. Do you read a lot? Was education a big priority in your family as you grew up?
Andrea Petkovic: My dad forced me to read a lot. Well, 'forced' isn’t the right word, he encouraged me and I always liked to read a lot. He’s a tennis teacher. When I was 14 or 15 I started reading all the literature in its original language so basically I was reading in French, English and German.
TENNIS.com: What prompted you to do that?
Andrea Petkovic: Well, I had a really good teacher and she always told us. 'Literature is never really the same if you don’t read it in the original language in which it was written.' So when I read Oscar Wilde, for instance, I read it in English. It just became some kind of natural thing and I watch all the movies in the original language or the sitcoms, you know like How I Met Your Mother, I watch those in original languages so you pick up the phrases that you don’t learn in school, so I like that.
TENNIS.com: A lot of tennis fans know you for your dancing and it seems that music is an influential presence in your life. Do you use music to pump yourself up for a match, to bring yourself down after a match to relax or recharge? What does music mean in your life?
Andrea Petkovic: Well, music is one of the most important parts of my life. I play the guitar and drums, not very well (laughs), but I really enjoy myself. I have a lot of musician friends so I’m really in a circle of musicians. I just really enjoy it. Sometimes, I feel a creativity inside of me and in tennis you don’t always get to use it that much. Of course, you use some inspiration and there is a rhythm to playing tennis. It’s kind of similar in terms of getting into a zone; like when I play the drums I get into it in the same way. Doing something different than tennis is very important. I just like to discover new bands, go on the internet for hours and hours and try to find some new songs that I like. It makes me happy.
TENNIS.com: The USTA did not raise Serena’s seeding as some expected. Are you surprised and what do you think of that decision?
Andrea Petkovic: I was surprised. For me, such a great player like Serena, if she would have come back and it was her first tournament I would have maybe understood. But now she showed she’s won two tournaments in a row and she beat all of the Top 10 girls in doing it. Myself, I would not have been bothered at all if they put her up there because I feel she would have deserved it based on her performance in the U.S. Open. On the other hand, for Serena herself it probably doesn’t matter when or who she is playing.
TENNIS.com: Last question, your birthday is on September 9, which is during the U.S. Open. How will you celebrate here in New York assuming you’re still here in New York on your birthday?
Andrea Petkovic: Well I think it’s the day of the semis, so I really, really hope that I am gonna play and that I’m gonna give myself the best birthday present ever! (laughs) That would be absolutely awesome, but yeah it’s a long time from here to there so we’ll see what happens, hopefully it will be a good one.