Written by Carrie Stevens, editorial intern
In case you haven’t heard of professional tennis player Vika Azarenka, we’ll catch you up to speed: She’s won two Australian Open singles titles (2012 and 2013) and two mixed doubles Grand Slam titles (2007 US Open with Max Mirnyi and 2008 French Open with Bob Bryan), plus an Olympic bronze medal for singles and gold for mixed doubles (with Mirnyi) at the London Games. Impressive for a 23-year-old, right? Before the BNP Paribas Showdown against Serena Williams at Madison Square Garden (Williams won the exhibition match 6-4, 6-3), we chatted with Azarenka about how fell in love with the sport, what she enjoyed about the 2012 Olympic Games and how she keeps her workouts fun.
When did you first pick up a racket?
I started to play tennis when I was seven years old. I was very close to my mom, and she worked at a tennis center. I couldn’t go anywhere without her, so after school, I would come back and walk around with her. She didn’t get a chance to work, so she had to distract me somehow. She gave me a tennis racket and a ball, so I started hitting it against the wall, and it was fun. One of the coaches saw me and asked if I wanted to join the group with the other kids. I was scared at the beginning, but once I started I was so happy. I really found a love for the game as a kid.
As they say, the rest is history! Aside from winning your medals at the London Games, what was your favorite part about the Olympics?
The whole journey. It was very tennis-oriented because we played far away from the other sports, so I didn’t get a chance to visit anything else. It was an amazing experience. The transformation from Wimbledon to the Olympics was completely different. Playing in singles and mixed doubles was incredible.
Will we see you at the Rio Games in 2016?
I think so—but my mom is totally against it! I would love to play. I love the game, and as long as I have that passion and fire inside every time I go on the court, I’m going to keep playing.
How do you stay focused and positive during matches when things aren’t going your way?
It’s important to keep fighting and giving your best every time. You always have to be honest with yourself. You have to give everything you can, and the result is an outcome from actions, so you have to be focused on your actions rather than focusing on winning a point. You have to really stay positive, humble, keep your composure, and be aware of what you’re doing.
Do you use mantras or repeat certain words or phrases?
I sing a lot when I play. I have songs and lyrics in my head sometimes that aren’t tennis-related. It’s so random! It can go from Rihanna—I love Rihanna—to Sir Mix a Lot.
What kinds of workouts do you love right now?
My trainer Mike Guevara and I do a lot of body-weight training, so we don’t lift much, but we do a lot of core, balance, and stability. Tennis is one of those sports that you have to use everything. You need strength, power, speed, reaction, so we work on all of those things. And we make it really fun. I love to dance, so we try to create dance-like exercises. It’s very specific, and he is very creative, which helps. Plus we always put on music. We just dance and make it really fun!
What does being fit mean to you?
It’s a lifestyle. I love eating healthy, and I love training. It makes me feel good. When I don’t do anything, I feel like I have less energy. It’s a lifestyle, and I think it’s great, especially in the States where you have so many opportunities to do whatever you want.
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