Question: Congrats on reaching the semis. It was a little bit unexpected, how does it feel?
Natalia Vikhlyantseva: I didn’t really expect it, I was preparing for the match against Simona Halep, warming up, doing my fitness routine, even on the court. I was very concentrated. But then the tournament referee told me Simona had withdrawn from the tournament. Of course, it’s not the way I wanted to reach my first WTA semifinal. I came up to Simona to apologize and wish her all the best and an expeditious recovery so that we could see her back on court soon. Anyway, I reached the semis and I am enjoying the momentum as I played my first two matches against strong opponents.
Q: You are now ranked 88th in WTA rankings. I suppose somebody told you this already. It is a new step forward. What do you think of it?
N. V.: Yeah, I was told I am 88th now, but it is not my final goal. I’d like to go on farther result-wise. I will try to show my best tennis and win the next match. Everyone wants to be in Top100, it was my dream from the childhood. And now it came true. But I’ll keep on working and improving.
Q: Cracking the Top100 is one thing, but hanging in there is a different ball game. What will you do to stay there for good?
N. V.: There is no doubt that to get there is easier than to stay there. I am going to practice more and will try to improve as a Top100 player. For sure it’s gonna be tougher. Every tournament, every point, everything is important. I would like to improve to get into the Top50.
Q: Last year you told us your coach is Evgeny Drozhzhin. Are you still working with him?
N. V.: Yes. Before Australia I was at home after that I didn’t manage to come back I went to France to practice there during the week. But my coach is still with me. When I am at home I continue studying at the Academy of Physical Culture and Sport and train with him.
Q: Tell us please about your off-season… Maybe this year it was special as last year you made your first steps on the tour?
N. V.: I played in the French town of Limoges at the tournaments with a $125 000 worth prize money fund. It went well and I reached semis. After that I came to the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy, I was planning to spend my off-season here and stayed there for the week. But I caught cold and came back home because I had to solve some problems with my Academy as I wanted to keep studying there. I can’t say I had a top player’s kind of off-season but still I tried to play tennis combining it with fitness and studies. And I also passed my exams for a driving license! So it was a really emotional off-season. Looks like it bore fruit. After that I went to Dubai to play an ITF $100 000 event to get the experience I need to have. Then I spent my winter holidays at home with my family and came back to the Academy. On January 5, I went to Australia to practice there.
Q: Did you manage to cope with your drive exams from the first attempt? What was the most difficult for you?
N.V.: No, from the second one. I did well at the theoretical exam. But then I failed at my driving exams because of so much snow. I did all the exercises but spent too much time. And in new traffic rules the time is limited while it took me 20 seconds more than the norm. Of course, it hurt me a little bit. How could I have failed!? But it was a useful life experience that influenced both my tennis and my daily life. You can fail not only at a tennis tournament but also in real life, not everything always goes smoothly. So when I took the driving exam from my second attempt, I was better prepared and passed the exam.
Q: You beat Daria Kasatkina here. She won’t play for Fed Cup team on the upcoming tie. It means you are one of the leaders of the team. At the first time…
N.V.: Ekaterina Makarova will also play. It means I am not, actually, the leader. But, yeah, I am number 2. It’s the first time I am going to represent my country playing in a team event and not in an individual tournament. It’s a big responsibility and great honor! I will do what I can but it’s very hard because of the pressure. Hope I will manage to show my best because it is not just for me, it is for the whole country.
Q: You’ve mentioned that your mother is travelling with you to tournaments. Is she more like a friend for you or could she be really strict and demanding and say: “Don’t be so lazy, work hard!”?
N. V.: She plays both of these roles. Of course, she understands everything well and knows the right approach to me. She asked me not to give up my studies. She is like a psychologist, helps me and that is really important. When she sees I’ve won she makes sure I don’t get the ‘stardom disease’ or else it could hurt me a lot. It is difficult to cope with everything but my mother does. She helped me in tennis a lot, she attended all my practices, and got some advice from the coach. My father and my brother are also here with me. It is a perfect harmony when the whole family is with you, it has a positive impact on my game here. It differs from when you are travelling with your coach. It is nicer to travel with the family.
Q: Last year you told us that you didn’t pay much attention to social media. Why did you change your point of view and became an active user?
N. V.: I am following top players, how they cope with everything, with their tough schedule and start to think about myself, that it’s not very tough for me right now. Of course, I don’t show off too much in social media. I think, private life must be hidden from peoples’ eyes. But I can show some things there – like tournaments or results. I like that more people started to follow me. They also chat with me in Twitter.
Q: You birthday is coming soon (Natalia turns 20 on February 16). What would you like to wish yourself or maybe you’ll make some order for a birthday gift?
N.V.: I’m not going to order anything. Reaching the Top100 was the best gift as well as reaching the SF at such a great tournament. I just want to wish myself to stay healthy and injury-free. It’s the most important thing in tennis. And, of course, I want to get along well with people and not to be selfish.
Press-center of the tournament