Getting To Know... Neuza Silva
Published June 21, 2009 11:52
LONDON, UK - A wrist injury held back Neuza Silva's development as a professional tennis player at a crucial time in her career, but all that will be forgotten on the first day of the 2009 Wimbledon Championships, when the 26-year-old makes her Grand Slam debut on the famed Centre Court. She'll be the first player from Portugal to grace the most illustrious arena in tennis, and to top it all off, she'll be taking on one of the all-time greats: Serena Williams, the No.2 seed. And she's not in the least bit fazed.
Sonyericssonwtatour.com spoke to the remarkably laid-back qualifier, world ranked No.154, on the eve of The Championships.
How did you get started in tennis?
NS: I started when I was seven, in my home town of Setúbal, just outside Lisbon. My brother Bruno, who is four years older, started before me with friends, and I wanted to play too.
At what point did you get serious about the sport?
NS: Even when I started, a coach told me I had talent. I believed quite early on that I could be a professional tennis player and I never give up. When I was 15 I moved to Lisbon to work with the Portuguese Tennis Federation.
Tell us more about your family.
NS: My father was a professional football player; he represented Portugal up until the Under 21s. So I have sports in my blood. Now he works in sports administration for the local government. My brother played handball as well as tennis, and now he works for a big Portuguese energy company. My mother looks after the family.
So far, what has been your best tennis memory? Or is that a silly question?
NS: Qualifying for Wimbledon this past week, for sure, against difficult players, difficult matches. It's the high moment of my career... the best moment of my life.
You're 26, and this is your first Grand Slam main draw. How does that feel?
NS: Oh, wonderful. It's hard to find the words to tell you how happy I am. But I've done a good job these past three years. I had a big injury in my wrist, but I never gave up, and this is like a big gift.
You're from Portugal; the connection with grass court tennis isn't obvious. Are you surprised that Wimbledon is the first Grand Slam you've qualified for?
NS: Well I feel so comfortable running on the grass from all the football I've played. There was a football stadium in my home town and my coach was also a football coach. I had a feeling that I could do OK in the qualies, but we'll have to see how I go tomorrow!
You couldn't hope for a bigger debut, playing Serena on Centre Court. How do you feel about that prospect?
NS: I am 100% sure I will enjoy it. I will be the first Portuguese player on the Centre Court, so I will make history. I'm proud of me and I'm proud of my group. I have a wonderful coaches, Paulo Lucas and Andre Lopes, but unfortunately my fitness coach Paulo Figueiredo can't be here.
Your family will be watching on TV?
NS: Oh yes. I think the whole world will be watching! I'm a socialable person, I know a lot of players and everyone is sending emails and writing on Facebook. Everybody in Portugal will be watching, I'm sure.
Do you have a favorite tournament?
NS: I played the qualifying at the US Open last year for the first time, and I loved it so much. But I think London will be in my heart forever now.
What do you like to do to relax?
NS: As well as football I go fishing… I have fished with my father and brother since I was a child. I also like to be with my nieces, and my friends.
If you could play a great player from the past, who would it be?
NS: Steffi Graf. She's a legend. I've tried to model my game on her a bit. I have a powerful forehand and a slice backhand. People say it is difficult to play against.
If you could acquire a shot from another player, what would you choose?
NS: The backhand of Justine Henin. She retired, so she can give me her backhand, no?
When you were injured, did you ever consider giving up tennis?
NS: Yes. I was 600 in the world. But my coach said, 'Let's try', and after three years I am here. This year I'm sure I will improve my ranking. My first goal is to be Top 100.