Note: This interview was published on June 27, 2023. Since then, Mirra Andreeva has qualified and reached the fourth round of Wimbledon on her debut at the tournament.
LONDON, England -- As Wimbledon qualifying got underway, the big question around the expanding grounds of the Bank of England Sports Centre up the road in Roehampton was how Mirra Andreeva, tennis' latest prodigy, would take to grass.
The 16-year-old had a memorable clay-court breakthrough, reaching the last 16 of Madrid and the third round at Roland Garros.
On Tuesday, Andreeva faced Rosa Vicens Mas in her first match on grass, a surface she had never competed on before, not even at the junior level. It was only a week ago when she first stepped onto the grass court during her initial practice session.
Andreeva delivered an impressive performance, securing a victory over the No.222-ranked Spaniard 6-3, 6-1 in only 78 minutes. Her signature backhand down the line, showcased in Madrid and Paris, proved to be equally formidable on the grass court.
"On the first practice I fell three times," said Andreeva after her win. "It's pretty tough for me to get used to the grass -- the moving is different, the ball bounces differently, the grass is slippery. I feel a bit slow, but I think it's OK. I try to do small steps and I still feel dangerous on court. As we can see, it goes pretty well for now."
Andreeva is also now being accompanied by the Netflix crew filming the second series of "Break Point." She's currently catching up with the latest batch of episodes from Season 1.
"We started to work together since Paris," she said. "I like the attention they're giving me. They just follow me, they don't ask me any questions, so it's OK. I just do my thing and they're just around. They're nice people. So far!"
A tight-knit family helps Andreeva deal with the attention -- notably older sister Erika, 19, who also advanced to the second round 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 over Dalila Jakupovic. Mirra says that the pair deliberately try to talk about "anything but tennis" off court, and they haven't played a practice set for four years, but that doesn't mean a lack of competition.
"Actually, we're both so competitive," said Erika. "We play cards, we play Uno, we play table tennis. We're just always playing games like kids."
Erika rose into the Top 150 and began playing WTA tournaments last year by herself, and is pleased Mirra has joined her so quickly.
"Before we played different tournaments and it was so tough," she said. "We spent much less time together. Now we're almost always together. At big tournaments it's nice to have all the family."
As such, Erika has had a front-row seat to Mirra's rise, and it hasn't come as a surprise.
"I've been watching how she's changed herself, how she's growing," she said. "I think she has this success because she's growing mentally. In her head she's started to think more like an adult. Also, she's such a fan of tennis. She watches tennis all the time and she has all her life. If you love tennis as much as she does, you don't have a choice but to have good results, you know?"
Since Paris, Mirra Andreeva has been keeping a low profile. A connection with highly rated British 14-year-old Hannah Klugman enabled her to come to London for early grass-court practice at Klugman's club in Raynes Park, down the road from Wimbledon.
"My coach has a friend who is her coach, and we're in good relationships with her," said Andreeva. "We practiced two or three times -- good quality practices and I liked it."
Otherwise, she's been decompressing and resetting. Andreeva rocketed from No.312 to No.101 in just two months, but she knows that she can't let that vertiginous rise derail her.
"Madrid and Roland Garros were in the past, so they stay in the past," she said firmly. "I have a lot of memories, positive and some negative also, but I try to move on. It was a great moment for me but now I'm playing the next tournament, and I'm fully focused on Wimbledon."