Petra Kvitova joins the WTA Insider Podcast to discuss her 2017 Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award and her grueling pre-season training regimen, which has her counting down the days until she kicks off her 2018 campaign at the Brisbane International.
The Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award is awarded to the player who conducts herself in a manner fitting of a professional sports figure and observes the rules of fair play, shows respect for others and is gracious on and off the court. The award has been voted on by players since 1978. Kvitova has won it in six of the last seven years.
"When I found out this news I was very happy because I really didn't expect it," Kvitova said on the WTA Insider Podcast. "I know I got it a few years before, but this year it's more special than other years. I don't know why, maybe it's because I missed the first half of the season. It's really nice of the players and I really appreciate it.
Listen to Kvitova's full interview on the WTA Insider Podcast below:
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WTA Insider: You've been awarded the Sportsmanship award by the other players in six of the last seven years. That must feel pretty good.
Kvitova: When I found out this news I was very happy because I really didn't expect it. I know I got it a few years before, but this year it's more special than other years. I don't know why, maybe it's because I missed the first half of the season. It's really nice of the players and I really appreciate it. It's important to me to behave well, to be the one who they voted for. For me it's natural, so it's not that tough (laughs). So it's good.
WTA Insider: What does sportsmanship mean to you?
Kvitova: For me, it's about on and off the court behavior, the respect for each other on the court and off the court. I'm always one who wants to fight on the court, but off the court we're just normal people. I just love saying hi to everyone and smiling, not cross anyone. For me, it's just nice to have those people. I'm just happy to see them.
It's about respect and appreciating each other. We need each other. We are fighters, we are opponents, but we are colleagues as well.
WTA Insider: In an interview we did earlier this year, you said that being away and coming back made you feel thankful for the tennis family. Does this award do that as well?
Kvitova: This kind of award doesn't remind me as much as this year when I came back. It was the biggest love from the players that I've ever [experienced]. They were hugging and smiling, asking how I am, and welcoming me back. It was so nice. I really felt like we are a big tennis family, which is just amazing. When I think about that, it's always so nice and it always makes me smile.
The award is a little bit different. It's just a thing. But the feeling when I came back and everyone was so nice, that really reminded me that we are opponents and colleagues, and we travel from city to city and we are together every week. It's just a huge family.
WTA Insider: So how has your pre-season been so far? It seems from your social media posts that it's been brutal.
Kvitova: It is brutal, I have to say. I can't imagine having as tough a preparation as I have now.
So far it's good. I'm healthy, that's the most important. We'll see. I'm looking forward to the matches. This training time is not really great for me. I like matches more than practice.
WTA Insider: How important was the off-season for you?
Kvitova: Well, at the end of the season I didn't really feel that I was empty or one of those things, but when the last tournament came I was totally empty. It was really weird, from one day to another day I was like ok, I need a break. I need the time off. I had three or four weeks off and then I was back with the fitness and we started with a little bit of tennis this week.
Mentally I was really prepared for the off-season because the year had many ups and downs and full of emotions. So I needed some time off.
WTA Insider: When you look back on 2017, what are the on-court things you want to take with you into next year and what are you working on to improve right now?
Kvitova: I think that I improved my fitness. In the time I couldn't play tennis I did a lot of fitness, in the first half of the year, so I'm very happy I stayed healthy. We all know how different it is to practice and then play tournaments and still be healthy. So that's one thing I want to take with me to the next season, the health and fitness.
I'm working on more on the serve now. I think at the end of the season I made too many double-faults sometimes and it didn't make very happy (laughs). As always, everything needs to improve if you want to be in contention with the top players. You have to put more than 100% to be ready for the season because everyone will be and I don't want to be in [last place].
WTA Insider: Has this off-season felt longer than normal?
Kvitova: It is, because we are not playing the final of the Fed Cup. I missed that, after all these years. In the WTA calendar, I finished after Tianjin. On one hand, it was good because I needed that time not to think about tennis and I had time to come back and practice again. Of course, it would be nice to play the final of the Fed Cup. But in that way, it was good.
WTA Insider: Where are you training?
Kvitova: I was training in Dubai, in Monte Carlo, and now I'm in Czech. Barbora (Strycova) is here, Karolina (Pliskova) is here, Kristyna (Pliskova) is here, Katarina (Siniakova) is here. It's like a small Fed Cup team.
WTA Insider: What has been the most fun you've had during the off-season?
Kvitova: For sure seeing my friends and my family, and to be on vacation. The best thing is to not have to travel with the tennis bag, that I'm going to the airport and the plane and I don't have my tennis racquets.
WTA Insider: When do you leave for Australia?
Kvitova: Leaving the 26th of December and playing Brisbane. I will be with my family for two days for Christmas and then I will leave on the 26th.
But I have to say, I'm looking forward to it. I love Australia. The people, the weather, everything. For me, it's like tennis plus the bonus of the Australia.
And also the matches. I'm boring (laughs).