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On the occasion of its 40th anniversary, Ana recently gave an interview to wtatennis.com about her tennis beginnings:
Your bio says you begged your parents to take you to a tennis school after seeing it on TV, in particular Monica Seles - was there a match/any matches that inspired you the most, and can you talk a little bit about that match/those matches?
Unfortunately I can’t really remember the matches from that time. My memory for details like that isn’t so good. But I vividly remember being so young and seeing Monica Seles for the first time and being fascinated by the new activity I was watching. It looked like so much fun and I had to try it.
When I was a bit older I remember seeing some of Monica’s great matches against Graf, and it was very special when she won the Australian Open after her comeback.
What was it about Monica Seles that inspired you?
I loved her intensity and aggression: it seemed like she made every ball count. She always looked very focused, playing in the moment. I admired that a lot. And then she was always very gracious after a victory or a defeat. I learnt from her in this respect.
Were there any other WTA players who inspired you while you were growing up?
Although I was a big fan of Monica I also enjoyed watching Graf, especially her forehand, because that has always been my best stroke too. I was very inspired by Agassi, on the guys’ side.
You’re one of 21 players who have been No.1 – do you ever feel the history of that achievement, being a part of such a historic group?
I often forget how few players have achieved this – it makes me very proud. Thanks for reminding me! It’s a huge honour to be classed among these women and it’s something I’ll always be able to tell my family when I’m old.
The WTA is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year – how do you feel about the strength of women’s tennis today, with record prize money, fans and tournaments all over the world now?
I think these are great times for women’s tennis: we got through the financial crisis very well and even continued to grow. We’ve had such strong sponsorship partners who have given us amazing support and we’ve seen a lot of changes in social media, which I think makes it more exciting for the fans.
One of the best things of recent years is the fantastic new stadiums that have opened, for example Perth, Beijing and Madrid. They are a joy to play in, and I’m honoured to have been among the first to enjoy these facilities when they were brand new.
The competition is very strong, always with 10 or so women capable of winning Grand Slams. I think it’s a good time to play and a good time to follow women’s tennis.