The Grind Behind the Glamour

Volvo Car Open stars share insights about the life of a traveling tennis pro

The life of a female professional tennis player can be pretty glamorous stuff. The flights, the exotic international tour dates, the camera-toting media members at their tournaments – all signals to the casual sports fan in America that to make the tour is to live a life of glitz, fortune, and fame. And for the world’s best players, to some extent it is.

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Venus Williams taking questions at the 2017 Volvo Car Open on Daniel Island.

When the top seeds of the Volvo Car Open sat down with reporters at an “All Access Media Hour” on Monday at the Daniel Island Club, the subject of social media status and celebrity was a topic of discussion. Over the years, Daniel Islanders and Charleston area residents have certainly joined their global counterparts in feeding the celebrity fire with energized fans seeking autographs, snuggling up with players for selfies and stalking their social media feeds for the next potential “chance” encounter.

But for the players we spoke with on Monday, the VCO represents only one chapter, be it a pretty one, of what is the epic tale of adventure they experience each season on the international tour.

“It’s not easy, especially I think in women’s tennis and women’s sports,” said WTA tour member and Volvo Car Open No. 4 seed Elena Vesnina of Russia. “It’s not easy for us because we’re changing countries, adjusting to things like the jet lag and the different surfaces. I think tennis is the only sport in the world where we change the countries we’re playing in, the surfaces we’re playing on and the cities we visit.”“We play in super-hot conditions, then we go to dry conditions like Indian Wells, then we go to Miami where it’s humid,” Vesnina continued. “Then we go to Charleston where it’s green clay, a different surface your body needs to address from different movements. So yeah, it’s not easy.”

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Madison Keys

“It can be exhausting,” said top-ranked Volvo Car Open player Madison Keys of the U.S. “Last year, at the end of Singapore I could not wait to get on a plane to go home and not look at a tennis racket for a while… but it’s what we do.”

Dutch-born pro and VCO No. 7 seed Kiki Bertens, time spent with those she loves is what matters most.

“I don’t get home much but if I’m home I’m always visiting my parents first,” said Bertens. “My friends and family are really important to me. I really appreciate things when I’m home. My friends are starting to have kids now, that’s also something I really want, not right now but in the future. If your people around you are going to have that you really think about it…And also you want to see them a little bit more, see how the kids are growing up. But right now, I’m still happy to be on tour and playing.”

Russian-born rising star Daria Gavrilova has already mastered her best defense from a life lived from city to city – her personality.

“I’m pretty easy-going so I don’t get depressed, ever,” said the World No. 27 player of Australia. “I guess I find positives in everything. But I do hate packing, that’s all. And I don’t like planes, but it’s only a few hours after which I can get pretty good food at a pretty good hotel.”

Last week’s Miami Open winner Johanna Konta said she likes travel the least and the competition the most. She also said that when she is home in Great Britain, she prefers to eat home-cooked meals.

“I just like being at home,” said Konta, who had to bow out of the Volvo Car Open before starting play due to a shoulder injury.

For 15-year WTA professional Samantha Stosur, long flights are just a simple fact of life in the world of pro tennis. Then again Stosur, a native of Australia, has never known anything different.

“We know that for us being from Australia, every single time we go away it’s going to be a long flight, you’re going to have the jet lag and everything else to deal with,” she said. “I’ve been doing that since I was 15, so it’s one of those things you don’t start complaining about – otherwise what are you going to do?”

“You know, a lot of unexpected things will happen,” said American tennis hero and Volvo Car Open No. 3 seed Venus Williams. “It’s fun to play in the States, because there’s not as many opportunities as there used to be. It’s always nice to get home and have the home crowd. I relish that moment.”

 

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