Getting To Know... Chang Kai-Chen

She already has a win over a world No.1 under her belt; could she be the Next Big Thing in Asian tennis?

Published January 28, 2010 12:00

Getting To Know... Chang Kai-Chen
Chang Kai-Chen

The last few months of the 2009 season brought a string of breakthroughs for Chinese Taipei's Chang Kai-Chen. First, she made her Sony Ericsson WTA Tour main draw debut at the US Open, beating No.25 seed Kaia Kanepi in the opening round. Then she proceeded to qualify for four of five Tour events entered, twice reaching the second round and stealing headlines by upsetting Dinara Safina en route to the third round at Tokyo. Having started the year ranked No.232 she finished inside the Top 100 for the first time, at No.92.

We caught up with Kai-Chen at the Medibank International Sydney, where she celebrated her 19th birthday.

How did you get started in tennis?
CKC: I have two older brothers who played tennis, and every time they went to practice I was left behind at home. So when I was about six I asked my parents if I could go to see what it was like. My father took me and I had so much fun. At first I played just with a country club coach but when I was 11, I went to Florida to train at the International Tennis Academy at Delray Beach. It was there that I was told I had the talent to pursue tennis… until that point I didn't really think that I could make it, but it made me think, OK, I want to at least try.

What's your coaching situation at the moment?
CKC: My coach is from the States and his name is Johnnie Brown. He coached me at the ITA, and then my dad approached him about traveling with me.

How do you describe your playing style?
CKC: I would say I'm an aggressive baseliner… like a lot of women tennis players these days!

What aspects of your game are you working on? What do you need to improve?
CKC: Right now it's more about the mental side of things. I think in terms of tactics it's all there, but mentally I need to be stronger to back it all up.

Your country has produced some excellent doubles players… are you the next one?
CKC: I don't know. I prefer singles. I know myself that I am not the best doubles player, but of course I may learn.

Growing up, did you have a tennis idol?
CKC: When I was really young, no, but when I started playing juniors and becoming more aware, I liked Justine Henin and Roger Federer.

If you could steal a shot from another player, what would it be?
CKC: I'd take Andy Roddick's serve - it's difficult for a woman to have that kind of serve.

How far did you get with your education? Are you still studying?
CKC: I'm still in school in Taiwan, and I attend every time I am back there. But when I am away I study by correspondence and they communicate with me very well!

Your parents have a seafood stall - do you ever help out?
CKC: When I was younger, yes. It's like a shop in a market and they sell direct to ordinary customers, but mostly they sell to restaurants.

Do you have a favorite kind of seafood?
CKC: Just normal fish; nothing fancy. Fish is good.

How do you spend your free time?
CKC: I like to listen to music or read and hang out with friends. But especially I like to hang out with my parents because I don't have much time to spend at home. I mean, my dad travels with me but I don't see my mom as much and it is nice to be with both of them.

Best tennis moment so far?
CKC: I have to say it's when I beat Safina! At that moment I really felt that yes, I can do this... it told me that I am on track. I realized that we are all just tennis players.

What clicked for you last year? Did you notice a change in yourself?
CKC: Yeah, I think it's about mentality and attitude. I'm more mature. I think my coach helped me a lot with that part. I started to believe in myself.

Favorite surface?
CKC: Hardcourts.

CKC: US Open.

What are your goals for the year?
CKC: My goal for the year is to reach the Top 50. I'll do my best but it's just a goal - I don't want to put unnecessary pressure on myself. Ultimately I'd like to be Top 10 but you never know what's going to happen. That might be unrealistic or maybe not ambitious enough.

What do you enjoy most about life on the Tour?
CKC: The competition, every week seeing friends, and traveling all over the world meeting every kind of person. I mean, it's tough, but there are lots of feelings to enjoy. The downside is missing time with family and friends. You lose a lot of things… but you also gain a lot of things.

If not tennis…
CKC: I've thought about being a jewelry designer, or a translator.

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