Navratilova has taught me a lot: Hantuchova

Amitabha Das Sharma

KOLKATA: Daniela Hantuchova has a preference for aces, be it sending unreturnable services to her opponents or being rated the sexiest tennis player twice by a magazine.

She is at ease with both the images. Turning professional at an early age of 16, she became the World No. 5 when she was 19. By then, she had made successive quarterfinals appearances in three Grand Slams — Wimbledon, U.S. Open and Australian Open in that order — to be rated one of the upcoming talents on the Tour.

Hantuchova is now the hottest property in the Sunfeast Open.

Despite being seeded second behind Marion Bartoli, the Slovakian has cornered most of the attention in the tournament. The glamour quotient notwithstanding, her tennis too has been appreciable.

Hantuchova spoke to The Hindu just before her semifinal match against fourth-seeded Maria Kirilenko of Russia.

How much influence does your mentor in ‘Partner for Success’ programme of the WTA and former double partner, Martina Navratilova, has on your career as a tennis professional?

Martina Navratilova has taught me a lot. I was pleased to be partnered with her. She was very generous with her knowledge of tennis both on and off the court. It was a great experience for me.

You had to wait almost five years to win your second singles title, which came early this year. But you have done fairly well in doubles (partnering Ai Sugiyama) and mixed doubles where you have a career slam. What do

you have say on this?

I enjoy playing doubles and mixed doubles. I think it helps my game — my reflexes at the net, return of serve etc. It also offers me more court time during the early rounds. My main focus is singles and I don’t play doubles and mixed doubles at every event. But when I do I enjoy myself.

How do you manage injuries and pressure to stay competitive?

Playing tournaments week in and week out is tough on your body. I feel it is as important to my game as hitting tennis balls. I continue to work on various aspects of my game to reach my peak performance.

I still have areas that I need to work on, but I am pleased with my overall performance. Obviously some days, things work better than others, but that is the nature of sports.

You gave up university for tennis. Is it what you always wanted to pursue?

I did not go to university, but I haven’t ruled it out after my tennis career. I speak several languages and continue to try to better myself when I am not playing tennis. Perhaps after my tennis career, I will go to school and study business. We will see.

What do you say about topping the hot-list of a magazine twice as the World’s sexiest tennis player?

It is certainly flattering if people find me attractive, but it’s not something that I spend a lot of time thinking about.

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