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Catching Up With... Tina Krizan

Tina Krizan traveled the world playing tennis and speaking foreign languages. Now she's bringing that world to kids in her native Slovenia.

Published September 26, 2011 10:53

Catching Up With... Tina Krizan
Tina Krizan

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia - During her playing career Tina Krizan cracked the Top 100 in singles but enjoyed her best success in doubles, winning six WTA titles from 20 finals and rising as high as No.19 in 2002. A three-time Olympian - she partnered Karin Lusnic at Barcelona in 1992 and Katarina Srebotnik at Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004 - the 37-year-old former globetrotter now brings the world of tennis and foreign languages to kids in her native Slovenia.

Tina spoke with wtatennis.com from the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana, from where she runs her innovative Sport & Language School.

How did you get into tennis?
TK:
When I started to go to primary school I had to walk past a tennis club every morning. One day I asked my friend if she wanted to join me and have lessons together. I immediately fell in love with the sport and haven't stopped playing since!

Did you have a tennis idol when you were a kid?
TK:
We were all in awe of Monica Seles. She was already a great player when she was 11, winning against all the younger and older players in the region. Years later when we became friends on tour I quite couldn't believe it.

What were your strengths as a player?
TK:
Despite being brought up on the clay courts of Europe I never had enough patience for long points, so I preferred fast surfaces where I could come to the net easier. I'd say my volleys were my strength and I had some very good results in doubles in the later stage of my career with different partners.

Who do you credit as having the most influence over your career?
TK:
These days without parents it's almost impossible to play professionally. So I guess they would be my first choice. My first coach at the local club also had a big influence on my technique. From the coaches I had later on I'd point out the knowledge and good humor of my Australian coach, Mervyn Rose.

What is your best memory from your tennis career?
TK:
When we were young kids growing up in former Yugoslavia, having had no worries apart from winning or losing a tennis match, those were the best days. On the WTA the highlights were certainly winning tournaments, playing on the centre court of Wimbledon for the first time, playing Fed Cups and the Olympics for my country. And spending some rare but good times off the court visiting places such as Hawaii.

Who was your toughest opponent?
TK:
There were many great players in my era but players who stand out are certainly Seles, Martina Navratilova and the Williams sisters.

What was your favorite tournament and playing surface?
TK:
Since I liked to play on fast surfaces I felt good on any of those. Grass was certainly something very special for me. The whole atmosphere at Wimbledon is something one never forgets. But my favorite tournament would probably be the Australian Open. I have fond memories of Australia... the people Down Under are just so friendly, nice and helpful and the weather is great.

Did you retire from the WTA on your own terms? Do you miss it?
TK:
There is a time in everybody's career when one has to call it quits. And certainly the best way to stop is on one's own terms. I was lucky enough to stop when I didn't feel motivated to practice nor play tournaments anymore. At the end I really had a hard time to pack my bags and get on a plane. Tennis gave me so much, it made me what I am today and I'm so grateful for it. But I never looked back.

Which of today's players do you most like to watch?
TK:
These days I very much cheer for all the players from former Yugoslavia. Serena and Venus are always fun to watch, especially at Wimbledon and I also like Roger Federer. Whenever I have a quiet evening at home, l enjoy very much to watch some good tennis and relax.

You speak six languages. Which was the hardest to learn?
TK:
Being born in a small European country bordering four different countries, one has to learn foreign languages. So I speak Slovene, Serbo-Croatian, English, German and lately Italian and French. Most of the languages I learned was when I was a kid - learning a foreign language at a younger age is much easier than later on. It's only more recently I've been studying French and I have to admit it hasn't been easy.

Tells us about your business. How did you get it started?
TK:
I've graduated in German language and literature and I became good friends with one of my professors. So one evening at dinner this idea popped up in my head to combine learning foreign language through sports and other activities. Since kids learn languages very fast and can't stand still, my language professor thought it was a really great idea. We made a plan and a curriculum and the kids seem to have a lot of fun! They ask for a lot of attention but the rewards are even bigger.

How does it work in practice?
TK:
Kids from ages three to five, and six to eight, join the afternoon classes which last from October till June. We have small groups of up to eight kids per group because we want to make sure we work with them personally and individually. At the moment, three different professors teach three languages - French, German and English, which is the most popular - at different locations. During the summer we also have weekly sport/language camps with more kids where they play a lot of tennis.

Were you formulating the idea for your business while still playing?
TK:
No, I didn't really think much about what I wanted to do after my tennis career. Sometimes I think it's not such a bad idea to do so after all. Usually things fall into place when the time is right.

How important is it for kids to learn languages at a young age?
TK:
The younger they are, the easier they learn and with less effort. Also the first foreign language learned should be the one with the more difficult grammar. It's scientifically proven that when children learn a more difficult language first all the others are learned faster and more easily.

What are your ambitions for the business?
TK:
Right now we want to make sure that we work well locally and that we get even more recognition at home - but also with the prospect to one day, when the circumstances are right, go international.

What do you like to do for fun?
TK:
I like to do different sports like skiing, biking, swimming, golf, yoga, all very much in moderation and depending on the time of the year. I also like to learn new languages and go to the theatre. Visiting foreign cities will always be a lot of fun for me as well. One finds out that there are a lot of things to do after a tennis career.

If you could meet anyone in the world, who would you choose?
TK:
Dalai Lama.

For more on Tina's Sport & Language School, visit www.sportinjezik.si.

Topics: 2011, tina krizan, news
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