Getting To Know... Karolina Sprem

Goran won Wimbledon; Iva stormed Roland Garros. Can this Croat add another Grand Slam trophy to the national collection?

Published May 26, 2003 12:00

Getting To Know... Karolina Sprem
Karolina Sprem

STRASBOURG, France - Croatian Karolina Sprem qualified for her first WTA Tour main draw at Strasbourg this past week, won her first WTA Tour main draw match, and proceeded to defeat the No.1 seed in her second round match. But she did not stop there. Instead, Sprem earned her way to the finals of the Internationaux de Strasbourg Tier III event, and took two-time defending champion Silvia Farina Elia to three sets before falling.

Sprem is not unfamiliar to this streak of success, as she has qualified for three consecutive ITF events this year and gone on to win the title at all three. She started the year ranked No.272 and has now jumped to No.99.

You started 2003 by winning your first 28 matches and four ITF tournaments. Was this amazing start to the season a surprise to you?
KS: I had never believed I could win four tournaments in a row. I practiced hard with my coach and did a lot of off-court training, but I didn't expect that. My coach (Sacha Hirzson) always tells me that I'm the best, that I can make it but me I never believed it. Now I'm happy because I showed myself that what he was telling me all the time was true.

Your win in the Strasbourg second round over Jelena Dokic was very impressive. How much more pressure do you feel playing in WTA Tour events, against the top players, than playing in satellites and challengers?
KS: I don't have pressure playing any tournament. I was a bit nervous before playing Jelena because she is a Top 10 player and the only top player I had played before was Myskina during Fed Cup. But my coach always tells me to watch the ball not your opponent, that I am playing against the ball. So for me I have no pressure.

How important to you has having people like fellow Croatians Iva Majoli and Goran Ivanisevic there to inspire you to make your mark in tennis? Have they helped you at all or given you advice?
KS: Of course when two Croats win a Grand Slam you tell yourself if they can do it then why not me, so that in itself is a source of inspiration. I don't practice with Iva but I look up to her. I did receive advice from Goran during Fed Cup and that was great.

Since most people are only beginning to recognize your name, can you tell us a little bit about how you got started playing tennis?
KS: I started to play tennis at nine. There was a club near where I live in Varazdin, and my dad asked me if I would like to try it. I loved it. I played for two years just to have fun and then took it a bit more seriously. It was funny, during my first tournament when I was 11 years old, I did not even know how to count the points, so I had no clue if I was winning or losing! I started playing ITF events in Croatia and then came the results, so here I am.

With such a great start to the season, have you had to reassess the goals you had at the start of the year? How much have they changed?
KS: At the beginning of the year, my goal was to reach the Top 100, but now that does not seem far away. I just want to play good tennis, be my best when I go out there, and keep healthy. Those are very important.

What moment (a tournament victory, ranking achievement) did you realize that professional tennis was going to be your career?
KS: There was never a moment I thought I would be a professional tennis player. I never took it very seriously, it was always fun for me to play, then I had good results, so it just happened.

What have been some of the favorites cities you've been to so far in your travels?
KS: I like Florida, the sun and the sea. But I also like to go on vacation in Grikvenica, it is on an island near Kirk. I go there often with my sister.

What is your ultimate tennis goal?
KS: I don't have a goal. When I played juniors, I said I wanted to be a Top 10 player, but that never happened. So now I just want to play good tennis at every match and the results will follow.

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