WTA player Andrea Petkovic takes over for Jon Wertheim to answer reader questions in this week's Mailbag.
KEY BISCAYNE – This week, Jon Wertheim handed over the keys to the SI Tennis Mailbag to Andrea Petkovic. The 29-year-old took some time between playing at Indian Wells and this week's Miami Open to answer some reader questions about pressures on the WTA Tour, Maria Sharapova, David Foster Wallace and more.
Andrea, I am a big fan of not only your game, but also your friendly personality. I find it very difficult to root for some of the women tennis players, because they seem to be very standoffish and unfriendly, but you are a breath of fresh air on the tour. Having said that, I really miss the Petko dance. I wonder if you stopped it because you felt your opponents thought of it as taunting. I look at it as a way to interact with your fans. Regardless of the dance, I still believe you have the talent for a major run. Do you look at this year's majors as a golden opportunity for you? Serena is injured, no one really knows what to expect from Azarenka or Sharapova, and Halep, Muguruza, Radwanska and Keys don't seem to be moving in the right direction to win a major right now, and quite frankly, your No. 1-ranked country woman is very beatable. You don't have to openly agree to that last point, as I am sure you never want to give bulletin board material to any of your opponents. Anyway, good luck for the rest of the season.
• Thank you very much for your kind words first of all. I actually do feel like I found a second breath if you will on my path, a new passion for the sport and a deeper motivation than I knew before. I was struggling with exactly that—motivation—in the past two years. It was difficult for me to keep fighting back from all the injuries but I'm really glad I fought through this period of my career and I feel like there are much better things ahead of me. I can't wait!
Will you be playing the Citi Open this year? If so, want a tour guide?
—DW from DC
I am very strongly planning on playing there, yes. I love the city but I do always need a city guide. You better take some time off of your job for that week, darling!
As one of the tennis players regularly willing to speak out on issues I'm curious how you felt when the WTA last year instructed players not to "speak negatively" about Sharapova with regards to her doping ban? (as reported by Jon here:
Disappointed to hear via a player that WTA has sent out a "don't speak negatively" email re Sharpova. Talking points are at odds w/ strength— Jon Wertheim (@jon_wertheim) June 8, 2016
And asking more broadly, how much, do you think, does pressure from the tour itself and other important actors in tennis (sponsors, agencies) influence public statements by players particularly on controversial issues? Blink twice if THEY are not letting you speak freely!
• Hello Katja! I guess I could answer in German here but for everyone else's sake I'll stick to English ;) I can only speak for myself on that particular issue and the WTA never approached me and told me what to say when I was asked. We know the WTA is there for us if we have questions about any important matters but I personally was never told what to say. And same here: I always liked to think of myself as an independent thinker and somebody who is able to take responsibility for their actions so I'm not afraid to speak my mind when I feel like it's necessary. However, social media has become very judgmental and very quick on their judgments, too, so I do understand players who hold their tongue when they are in a middle of a big tournament. I have done that myself a few times as well because it can affect your performance if you get too stressed about stuff. Hope that answers your question!
Do you think the rules should change regarding wildcards granted to players returning from suspension?
—Chris Nolan (@chris__nolan)
• I don't know if the rules should change, I just think that people responsible for giving out wildcards should think for themselves and not be forced by rules. Maybe that's too much to hope for. Every case is different and hence every case should be treated differently. That's why I think it's difficult to pour such things into molded rules.
Can or Scorpions? Neu or Rammstein?
• LOL. Neither. I do love Rammstein lead singer's poems though. Have you ever read them? You really should, they are highly disturbing ;)
How important is feminism to the WTA tour's DNA, and how central should feminism be in marketing and promoting the WTA?
• I believe that feminism lies at the very core of every strong, independent woman. We tennis players represent that in every aspect and part of our job. Sports in general gives chances to all kinds of people regardless of gender, race or sexuality and we as the biggest global player in female sports should at all times hold up the torch of feminism and belief in a future where equality is not at debate anymore.
Andrea, thank you, and Jon, for making me aware of David Foster Wallace (DFW)! I find myself tilting toward the non-fiction side of DFW fandom—more "Roger Federer as Religious Experience" article or "This Is Water" speech than Infinite Jest novel. In fact, I'm reading your favorite, Infinite Jest, and was wondering if you had any advice as I SLOWLY make my way through the 1,000 odd pages? Finally and more importantly, what is his enduring legacy in your mind (e.g., his rejection of modern cynicism and praise of sincerity, the reunification of the physical and the intellectual, etc.)?
—Jeff W., Milton, Ga.
Jeff! Thank you very much for your interesting question, I had a blast sitting down and deeply thinking about DFW's message to me. I feel like what I took most from him is the fact that it is okay to try to find raw, pure emotion within yourself and things you are passionate about without having to cover it in irony in order to be cool. He is very straightforward in his writing style and in what he says. Something that was very hard for me to learn growing up especially during my years as a teenager. However I cherish his passages on human nature the most, that's why I also prefer his non-fiction work to his fiction work. The only tip I can give you on Infinite Jest is to just do it. It took me almost a year to get through the whole book but it's really worth it. It's a little bit like running a marathon I assume. Some parts are a thrill, most parts are really hard but you feel exhilarated and happy when you run through the finish line. Enjoy it! And let me know what you thought :)