NEW YORK, NY, USA - Rebecca Peterson became the latest Top 100 debutante when she captured the biggest title of her career on clay in Cagnes-sur-Mer, a $100K ITF Pro Circuit event in France. The Swede is quickly proving to be a player for all surfaces as her ranking continues to rise with main draw wins at Roland Garros, Wimbledon, and now the US Open, upsetting No.27 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in three sets Monday.
"I’m happy about today’s win," she said after the milestone 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory. "It was a really tough match and she’s a tough opponent. I was trying to fight for every point because she’s a very aggressive and great player."
Her year got off to an auspicious start when she reached the Abierto Mexicano Telcel semifinals in Acapulco. Since cracking the Top 100 in May, Peterson has gone from strength to strength this summer, rocketing into the Top 60 just after her 23rd birthday, qualifying for and winning a round at her first Premier 5 event at the Western & Southern Open.
"I just love playing in the US. I love the atmosphere and how people are really into it, all the supporters."
In an exclusive interview with wtatennis.com ahead of her second round clash with Vania King, Peterson discussed growing up in a family of tennis players, her desire to stay present, and what she likes best about playing in the Big Apple.
1. Peterson grew up in a family of tennis players: Peterson's earliest memories take place at the tennis club where most of her family played.
"My dad used to play tennis and my sister did as well. I grew up on the tennis court, and now my dad is my coach. I’ve always been around the tennis court, and I always loved it. Even before I started playing, I was at the tennis club with my friends, watching other people practice.
"My family lives for tennis. We love it, all of us. When we are at home, though, we don’t talk about it that much. It’s important to think about other things, too."
2. Injury kept her off court for seven months: Struck by a right arm injury, Peterson missed the first half of the 2017 season, causing her ranking to fall as low as No.226.
"My goal is to stay healthy because I was injured in my right arm for a long time. I couldn’t play for seven months so I just want to stay healthy and really try to improve every day that I’m on court. I want to keep being a better player."
3. She knew she had to win a title to make her Top 100 debut in Cagnes-sur-Mer: Peterson was the No.8 seed and ranked No.113 when she came to the French Riviera; the clay court season was about to end and she was already assured a spot in the main draw of Roland Garros. She nonethless stormed to her first $100K title without dropping a set, and clinched her Top 100 debut by winning the final over fellow 2018 Top 100 debutante Dayana Yastremska.
"If I won the tournament, I knew I would make the Top 100, and it came down to one match, where, if I won it, I’d be in the Top 100, and if not, no. In that situation, I wasn’t thinking much about it because I’d be putting a lot of pressure on myself that I didn’t need. I think I’ve been handling it pretty well so far."
4. Peterson credits an improved metality with helping to unlock her best tennis: Armed with an impressive forehand, Peterson admitted to mental struggles hindering her progress even more than any injury.
"It’s about trying to improve and not thinking too much about results, my opponent, or the tournament. I’m trying to think about how I can get better on the tennis court, and just enjoy my career. We’re all here because we love playing tennis, and if we’re not enjoying ourselves, it’s not right. This is a great job, why not love it?"
5. Peterson particularly enjoys the hustle and bustle of New York City: Spurred on by vocal supporters in her first match, the Stockholm-born Peterson has fallen in love with the Big Apple, and the unique energy the city offers.
"I love it here. The atmosphere keeps your adrenaline going all the time, and I just feel super pumped being here. It’s amazing, and it's probably one of my favorite Grand Slam tournaments.
"When you’re staying in the city, it’s easier to go out in the afternoon and do something else. It’s different from other tournaments, where you might just be at the hotel. You always feel like you’re doing things all the time, and not just thinking about tennis. I think that’s nice, to always be able to go somewhere and have fun."
6. The Swede aims to stay present as her ranking continues to rise: With an improved mentality, Peterson doesn't hold onto any firm ranking goals now that she's reached the Top 100, opting not to stress about either the past or present.
"I’m trying not to have them because it puts too much pressure on me. It’s very easy to think about your history or what’s coming in the future. It doesn’t help me much to do that, so I want to keep staying in the moment because it’s important."