SAN JOSE, Calif. -- It did not take long for Elizabeth Mandlik to learn her mother, four-time major champion Hana Mandlikova, was kind of a big deal. After all, not many players on the Hologic WTA Tour can say they know their way around the inside of the daycare center at Wimbledon.
"She brought me everywhere," Mandlik told WTA Insider at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic. "So I would go when she would play Legends she'd take me. At the Grand Slams there was a daycare and I was with other kids and they were all talking like, 'Oh, so who's your mom?' I remember that."
Ranked No.240, Mandlik earned her first main-draw win Monday night at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, defeating Alison Riske-Amritraj 6-3, 6-3 in the first round. The 21-year-old Floridian came to San Jose unsure she would even get into the qualifying event. Ten minutes before the draw, she learned she had received a qualifying wild card. A winner of three ITF 25K events this season, Mandlik proceeded to tally wins against Madrid semifinalist Jil Teichmann and Fernanda Contreras Gomez to earn her spot in the draw.
It's been a wild week for Mandlik. She was ranked just inside the Top 500 at the start of the year and had never even hit with a Top 100 player until this week.
"I've never really had an opportunity to play with these high-level players and to just be around them," Mandlik said. "To know that you can be there and be able to actually beat them, you create such a high belief in yourself and that you belong here.
"The belief was always there, but of course, it's questionable because I never even had the chance to practice with them. Now I'm actually playing a match and beating them."
Mandlik spoke to WTA Insider after her tour debut to shed light on her path to the pros and what it's like to chase her mother's shadow.
FIRST main draw win on Tour 💪— wta (@WTA) August 2, 2022
Qualifier 🇺🇸 @ellimandlik, daughter of four-time Slam champion Hana Mandlikova, defeats Riske-Amritraj in San Jose to reach the last 16!#MubadalaSVC pic.twitter.com/UtVx3AMVhF
WTA Insider: How did you start playing tennis?
Mandlik: I started when I was 7 or 8. My mom didn't want to put me in tennis too early, to not get sick of it too fast. So I was put in tennis, soccer and gymnastics. My brother was as well.
I'm more of a competitive person by myself. I don't want to rely on a team and gymnastics just wasn't for me. So I just chose tennis. I'm a really competitive person so I think that's why, too.
WTA Insider: Was it super serious right away?
Mandlik: Not really. It was a fun thing. It was like an hour a day, three times a week, something like that. And then when I was 13 or 14 years old, I was going every winter to ski. I told my mom I want to be a professional skier. She was thinking about it because she knew that I was good at it.
She was like, I'm not going to move to a cold place for you, I'm not going to do that. So then I just went there and did that for fun. But if I didn't choose tennis, I would have chose to ski. I just loved racing.
WTA Insider: When did it become serious?
Mandlik: At 15 I knew that that's all I wanted to do. My twin brother, we have a little bit different mentalities. He loves the social aspect of it, so he went to college. And he kind of always knew he wanted to do that and I always knew that I didn't want to.
So my mom was like, OK, you're going to go to college and you're going to play professional. So she had to handle that. Of course, she wanted both of us to go.
WTA Insider: Having decided not to go the college route how did you chart out your path to become a professional tennis player?
Mandlik: I never thought to rush it. I just take my time and if it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't. I can always go to college to be a doctor later on or whatever I want, you know what I mean? So I'm not rushing it, but for me, it's paying off.
WTA Insider: When did you come to realize that your mother is a Hall of Famer?
Mandlik: It was from a pretty young age because I only had my mom; I don't have a dad. So she brought me everywhere. So I would go when she would play Legends she'd take me. Then sometimes she wouldn't take me and I would be crying for the whole week. So I would say around 10, that's when I noticed.
At the Grand Slams there was a daycare and I was with other kids and they were all talking like, Oh, so who's your mom? I remember that.
WTA Insider: How has having your mom's experience helped you in pursuing your career?
Mandlik: It's helped me a lot. There's disadvantages and advantages, but what helps me is that I know that she knows how hard it is. She helps me just lift myself up. She's always positive no matter what because she knows I'm trying my best. She knows everything in the court and off the court so it's very easy to like talk to her about it.
And if I say, like, I don't want to practice, she'll say don't practice. She already built that in me that I know how much to push myself. So she doesn't want to push me any more because I already have it so high, you know?
WTA Insider: Has she ever tried to talk you out of it?
Mandlik: Yeah. It happens all the time. Like here, I played a tournament before this tournament and I got to the semis. Then I flew right back and my coach was like, 'Let's go to San Jose.' And my mom's like, 'You need to rest. You're only here for a day, I don't think it's a good idea.'
And my coach is like, 'No, I feel it. I think she needs to go and just try.' Even if we don't get in, it's fine. And my mom's like, 'No, I think she should rest.' And then my coach like, 'Please give me the opportunity.' So it was crazy how it worked out.
WTA Insider: I assume you've spoken to her since you won last night.
Mandlik: She was so happy. I listened to a video and she was like, 'I can't believe this.' I was like, 'Well, you better believe it.'
WTA Insider: When did you find out you were going to get a wild card into qualifying here?
Mandlik: It's a funny story. So we came here and I was an alternate. I was seven or eight out and we were just hoping to get in. We were just waiting and the supervisor said you're going to be like two out.
A girl I know, she had a wild card, and she told me that she's not coming. So I told my coach, go and push for the wild card, maybe I have a shot. So it was like 10 minutes before the draw that I knew.
WTA Insider: What has been the biggest challenge you've faced in your career so far?
Mandlik: Overcoming the losses. You have these three or four weeks where you just consistently lose, but the only reason you're losing is because you're improving something. You're playing so well on the practice court but you can't transition into the match yet. So that's the hardest part is just to stay positive in those moments.
WTA Insider: Off the court, how would you describe yourself?
Mandlik: I would say I have a very small circle. I'm not an extrovert, I'm an introvert for sure. I'm very easy to get along with. I don't have that many friends, I try to stay to myself. That's the way I like it.
I love hanging out with my brother and doing things with him. He play tennis at Oklahoma University. When he graduates he's going to go pro too.
WTA Insider: Are you a big tennis-head?
Mandlik: Yeah, I watch tennis all the time. Anytime there's a TV, I'm going to check if Tennis Channel's on and then I'll leave it on, even if it's in the background I need to have it on.
For example, I watch tennis at home all the time in the living room and my mom's like Eli, turn it off. I don't want to hear it anymore. She grew up with tennis and then she has two kids doing tennis. She's like I don't want to hear the ball! At least from the voice off (laughs).
WTA Insider: How would you describe your game-style?
Mandlik: Aggressive type of player who consistently keeps fighting. I try to move in as much as I can and take the ball early and always just try to step in and make the girl feel rushed.
I feel like I've gotten to that point to play like that in the last year. That's what's really catapulted me to do well. I really push myself to do that because I'm not that tall. I'm fast, but I'm not big, So I have to do something a little bit extra, you know? So, yeah, taking time away from the opponent.
WTA Insider: You mentioned that you had never hit with a Top 100 player before this week. Are there players on tour right now that you're champing at the bit to get to play?
Mandlik: So when I found out that my ranking was OK to play in qualifying at the US Open my brother was like, 'Oh, maybe you could get a wild card for main.' He was like, 'Would you rather play on an outside court some qualifier, or would you rather play Iga Swiatek?'
I was like, 'Are you kidding? What kind of question was that?' He said would rather play a qualifier. I would rather play Iga Swiatek on Center Court.
So I would say Iga.
WTA Insider: This is obviously your first WTA tournament. Looking ahead, what tournaments are you most looking forward to playing in the main draw?
Mandlik: U.S. Open for sure. I would say Wimbledon a bit more, but also U.S. Open. I would say Wimbledon because my mom never won Wimbledon and that's my goal. I want to win Wimbledon. Nobody can say 'Oh, her mom won it.' And I'm like, no, not this time. It's only me (laughs).
WTA Insider: What's the best tennis advice your mom has given you?
Mandlik: Tough moments don't last, but tough people do.