Getting To Know... Chanelle Scheepers
Published May 29, 2010 12:00
PARIS, France - Twelve months ago South African Chanelle Scheepers, playing just her second Grand Slam main draw as a 25-year-old qualifier, fell in the first round to Elena Dementieva. Fast forward a year and it will be a case of déjà vu at Roland Garros on Sunday - except that this time the two players will be meeting in the fourth round, with a quarterfinal berth up for grabs. It's a major breakthrough for the late-blooming Scheepers, who won the first of her 12 ITF Circuit singles and 20 doubles titles in 2001, played her first Tour main draw in 2003 and reached her first Tour quarterfinal at Kuala Lumpur earlier this year.
We caught up with Chani, who is currently ranked No.131 in the world but has already secured her Top 100 debut, ahead of her rematch with Dementieva.
How did you get into tennis?
CS: My mum used to play, and then she started to coach. I'd tag along when she was playing social at the club.
Tell us about your family.
CS: We're from a small town in South Africa called Harrismith. As well as coaching tennis my mom is a teacher, and my dad's a veterinarian surgeon. My brother, Jozua, is three years older than me; he's an accountant and currently working in the Cayman Islands.
What's your coaching situation at the moment?
CS: I'm coached my Liezel Huber's husband, Tony Huber. Sometimes when he can't be at the tournaments, Liezel's coach, Roger Anderson, also helps me out. I'm actually based in Houston, at the Huber tennis ranch.
How would you describe your playing style, and is there something that you've been working on lately that has prompted your success this week?
CS: I would say I'm an aggressive baseliner. I've just been trying to improve everything, there hasn't been anything specific. The things I struggle with I try to work on more, but generally I try to improve everything.
You're 26 and through to the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time - how does it feel?
CS: I'm really happy. I'm still in the tournament so hopefully I can keep going and see where I can get.
Has there been a pivotal win in your run so far this week?
CS: In the third round of qualifying against Ondraskova I was a set and 6-5 down, and managed to take the set in a tie-break and go on to win the match. My match against Gisela Dulko was also important; again, I was a set down and we were 1-1 in the second when the rain delay came. That gave me a chance to regroup and focus on how I wanted to play the rest of the match - and it turned out to be the first time I beat a Top 50 player.
What are your goals?
CS: Always to keep trying to improve, because I think if do that, the results will come. And I think I always try and be a better person.
Did you have a tennis idol when you were growing up?
CS: I would say Steffi Graf. When you are young, you just choose someone, even if you don't really understand why. I just liked the way she played and looked up to her.
Who has been your toughest opponent to date?
CS: That's a good question… I think there have been a few. Sometimes it's not just the person but also the circumstances. Last year when I qualified for the Australian Open I played Dominika Cibulkova in the first round. It was the first time I had qualified for a Grand Slam. I would say she was a really tough competitor but also the situation was new to me. I would also say Dementieva, here last year.
Dementieva is, of course, your next opponent - how does that feel, doing it all over again?
CS: I think it's a good thing that I played her last year. Win or lose, you always learn a lot and hopefully tomorrow I can apply the things I've learned.
What is your best tennis memory so far?
CS: I would have to say this week.
How far did you go in your education?
CS: I finished school, and am studying finance through a correspondence university. To tell the truth, this year I haven't been too good with studying but I just try and do a few subjects each year to keep it going.
What are your favorite tournament stops, and how do you feel about life on the Tour?
CS: I really like all the cities where the Grand Slams are held. I have to say I hate the travelling through, but with every job I think there are good things and bad things. I love competing.
Who are your best friends on the Tour?
CS: I would have to mention Liezel. She's one of the nicest people. She always tries to help, she's very caring. I would say she's almost like a sister to me.
What do you like to do aside from tennis, to relax and have fun?
CS: You know, when I have time off I'm pretty tired. I like to stay at home, lie on the couch and channel-hop on the TV!
If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would it be?
What quality do you most appreciate in others?
CS: Trustworthiness. I like people who are straight with me... tell it like it is.
If you were marooned on a desert island and could have just one luxury with you, what would it be?
CS: I know this wouldn't help for survival, but probably my BlackBerry.
If you weren't playing tennis, what do you think you'd be doing?
CS: I would probably be in South Africa, would have been to university and have some kind of normal job.
Are you excited that South Africa is about to host the World Cup? How is the profile of tennis holding up given the attention that is being given to football?
CS: I think there's a lot of excitement about the World Cup and I've heard that once a week everyone wears the same shirt! Normally they don't write so much about women's tennis, but I think surprisingly my run here has been quite a big deal, even with the football going on.
You're the first South African to reach the fourth round here since Amanda Coezter reached the quarters in 1997, and the first to go this far at any Slam since she reached the fourth round at the Australian Open in 2003. Do you feel a torch has been passed?
CS: I try not to think about that; I didn't know these facts until people asked me about it this week. Over the years I've just really tried to keep improving and reach my own personal goals.