Getting To Know... Alison Van Uytvanck
Published February 28, 2014 12:15
FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil - Although she failed in her quest to reach a maiden WTA semifinal, Alison Van Uytvanck did her reputation - and ranking - no harm with her showing at this week's Brasil Tennis Cup, in Florianopolis.
Van Uytvanck first caught the eye when reaching the last eight of her home event in Brussels as a wildcard almost two years ago and has been making steady progress ever since. Last November, she made a fleeting visit to the Top 100 after winning the WTA 125K Series event in Taipei and, judging by her victories over Hsieh Su-Wei and Paula Ormaechea in Brazil, now looks ready for a more permanent stay.
Before her quarterfinal defeat against No.2 seed Garbiñe Muguruza, the 19-year-old sat down with wtatennis.com to talk about where she came from and where she is heading.
Can you tell us a little about your family and where you grew up?
AVU: I'm from Grimbergen, it's near Brussels, and it's a very nice place. My mother's name is Krista and she works for Carrefour, the supermarket, and my father, René, is selling houses. I have two brothers, one of them is my twin and his name is Brett. We are close, but he is totally different from me - he's not into sport and prefers music and theatre and is studying pharmacy at university. My other brother is called Sean and he is 23 and he is studying to teach physical education. We all have English names because my mother loved how they sounded. It's a nice environment when I'm home - I've lived there my whole life and like to be there and close to my friends and family.
Do any of your family members have a background in sport?
AVU: Actually, no. They follow me and support me, but it's not like they teach me how to play tennis. They just brought me to a tennis class when I was five and they saw I had a good feel for it and encouraged me to practice more. So it started from there and now I'm here!
Can you tell us a little bit more about your early coaching?
AVU: I first started at a local club and then at the age of 10 I moved to the national federation until I was 12. After that I was working with a Russian coach who was living in Belgium called Alexandre Katsnelson. I was with him until I was 19 and he brought me on very well, but he can't travel with me on tour. I still practice with him on the weekends when I'm home, but most of the time now I'm back with the Belgian Tennis Federation and mostly work with Michiel Antheunis and Ann DeVries.
Who travels with you at the moment?
AVU: Until I was 18, my dad was always travelling with me and sometimes he still comes with me. Before I was working with the Belgian Tennis Federation, it was too expensive to have a personal coach so he would go with me, not to coach, just to accompany me.
Which players did you look up to when you were younger?
AVU: Kim and Justine when I was growing up. I met them both when I was younger and practiced with Kim once. They were both very nice, very friendly and they always tried to help us younger players, telling us to call them if we ever had any problems. Now I probably look up to Roger the most - he is just class.
Are you close with the other Belgian girls on the WTA?
AVU: I have a very close relationship with Kirsten and with Yanina as well; they send texts when I'm playing well and I send them messages when they have good results. It's good to support one another and then you have a real team spirit when we play Fed Cup.
What's the best memory of your tennis career to date?
AVU: Probably winning Taipei. That was my first WTA 125K and also put me into the Top 100, even if it was just for one week!
How would you describe your game?
AVU: Good serving and, although I like to play aggressive, I also like to vary my game with slice and drop shots.
What areas of your game are you working on at the moment?
AVU: To be more consistent with my strokes and also when it gets tight I'm trying to stay aggressive and stop myself going back to being passive. Everything really - serving better, returning better - as you always need to get better.
What's your favorite surface?
And your favorite tournament?
What are your goals for 2014?
AVU: It was my goal to be direct entrant for all the Grand Slams, but now I think it is to be, maybe, Top 80.
Do you have any longer-term goals?
AVU: Everyone wants to be No.1 or to win a Slam. But I'm looking year-by-year and try not to look too far in front. You never know what can happen. You may get an injury or something else.
What do you do in your free time away from tennis?
AVU: When I'm at home, I try to meet my friends and have a good time with them. When I'm at a tournament, I like to keep in good contact with my parents and friends on Skype. Also, watching a movie or reading a book - there's not that much you can do at a tournament!
Did you finish high school?
AVU: Yes, I went to normal school. My parents said I could do it by correspondence, but I didn't want this as I wanted to have social contact with my friends. It was always my priority to finish school and then to play tennis. I was playing lots of ITF $10,000s and I'd be at school for one week and then away for one week, but the school did a perfect job and helped me a lot.
If you weren't a tennis player what would you be doing now?
AVU: Probably going to university, but I'd still be doing some sport or studying something to do with sport.