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Getting To Know... Sesil Karatantcheva

She was born in Bulgaria, plays for Kazakhstan and loves Australia. But why does Sesil Karatantcheva hate Tolstoy?

Published July 22, 2012 08:22

Getting To Know... Sesil Karatantcheva
Sesil Karatantcheva

With parents who represented their country in rowing and volleyball, Sesil Karatantcheva was always destined for a life in sport.

Born in Bulgaria, but now representing Kazakhstan, Karatantcheva's career, which began in 2003, has been nothing if not eventful. Still just 22, the one-time child prodigy, who was once as high as No.35 in the world before spending a few years in the tennis wilderness, is currently plotting a way back to the top.

And as Karatantcheva embarks on this latest chapter, she sat down with wtatennis.com to give a little insight into her rollercoaster tennis journey.

How did you get into tennis?
SK:
I started playing when I was around five and a half. The only reason I started playing was because my dad wanted to be a tennis player when he was younger, but my grandparents basically told him he needed to study. In the beginning, I totally disliked it. I thought it was the most boring sport ever and wanted to just go play with Barbies at home. But my dad was a very smart guy because he started buying me out and giving me presents if I played well! Then when I got to about eight or nine I started winning tournaments and began to enjoy it more.

Can you tell us about your family?
SK:
My dad didn't get his dream to become a tennis player, but he ended up in rowing and was actually pretty good - he was national champion and went to the Olympics in 1980. His name is Rado - like the watches. My mom's name is Neli, she was a volleyball player and also on the national team, but now she works in real estate. My uncles were rowers too and a have three younger half sisters, who all play tennis, so sport is pretty big in our family!

How would you describe your game?
SK:
I would say I'm a very, very good runner! God definitely gave me legs! My dad likes to call me a Chinese wall from the baseline as I get everything back. So I can run, I have a great backhand, pretty stable forehand. I'm still kind of working on my serve, so at the moment my return games are better. Overall, I'm a bit of everything, but I'm aiming to be much more aggressive as modern tennis is all about aggression and if I want to get to where I want to be I need to concentrate on this.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?
SK:
I would say the best moment was when I first started to realize I was completely independent. There was not one specific tournament because I had so many good memories everywhere; first, in the juniors, then, ITF titles. But it was not just one moment but the feeling of independence and starting to make my own money meant I could get whatever, buy whatever - coming from Eastern Europe it was an amazing feeling.

Who was your tennis hero growing up?
SK:
I really liked Gabriela Sabatini; I really liked the way she played, the way she behaved and I also thought she was, like, the prettiest tennis player I had ever seen. So she was the first one, but later on there was Steffi Graf and Martina Hingis. Oh my God, I loved Martina and I cried so much in that final at the French Open in 1999. At first I couldn't separate between the two but then at the end I was a complete Martina Hingis fan. I was devastated when she lost.

What are your short and long-term goals?
SK:
In the short term, just to stay healthy because this will mean that I can stay in the sport much, much longer. After this, the big goal is really to crack the Top 100, once I pass this horrible mental block, I'm going to feel so much better!

What is your favorite WTA tournament?
SK:
I'm a very, very sunny person. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I need sun to have energy. For me, bad weather is devastation. I really love tournaments where there is good weather, so if I had to choose between the Slams, Paris or Australia would be my favorites.

And surface?
SK:
Oh, I'm so confused! If you had asked me five years ago I would probably have said clay for sure. Honestly, I think I'm equally good everywhere. I'm not trying to sound cocky but I think my level is the same on all surfaces. But if I had to choose just one, I would say clay because I can slide well and it's what I grew up on.

How far did you go in your education?
SK:
I finished high school and I have just started at university in Sofia doing sports management. It's a complete mess and I have no idea what's going on. I study on my own and then just need to go there for the exam sessions but it's pretty hard because the subjects are really tough and I have to do it all on my own. I feel like I could have a future in sports management after tennis. I had a pretty bad experience with agents and if one of my sisters ever goes pro I would like to help her out and keep it in the family.

How do you relax away from the court?
SK:
Everything that you're not supposed to do! Like, I love driving motorcycles and cars. I don't have a bike of my own, because I think if I get one of those my parents are going to bury me in the back yard! But I have a car - a Mercedes ML500 - and I'm saving for an upgrade right now. My dream is an Aston Martin, although I might need to win a few tournaments to get that! Also I like skiing, rollerblading, horseback riding and reading. I spend a lot of money on books, everything from classics to romance and biographies. The last thing was Anna Karenina by Tolstoy but that got me depressed for like two weeks and I said I'm never going to read him again.

If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would it be?
SK:
Emotional. Although other people like to call me crazy and I don't know whether to take this as a complement or insult! I get fired up pretty quickly and can then calm down pretty quickly.

If you could meet anyone in the world who would you like it to be?
SK:
Can I go back in time? I would say Elizabeth I or Cleopatra. I'm a big fan of the Tudors. I think Henry VIII being with Anne Boleyn was the best thing that ever happened to him so I don't understand why he beheaded her.

If you weren't a tennis player what would you be doing now?
SK:
You know, I think it would have definitely been in sport because I can't really imagine myself being in school to become a lawyer or doctor. If not that, then perhaps something artistic.

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