In this Life on Tour series, WTA Insider spoke to a litany of players across the ranking spectrum to give fans an inside look at life on tour. In this third installment, the players opine on the best food on the circuit.
If there's one thing that can lift the mood of any professional tennis player, it's fine dining. When Ukraine's Anhelina Kalinina was asked for her memories of her first Hologic WTA Tour match, the only thing she could remember was the food.
"Maybe it was Tashkent," Kalinina told WTA Insider. "It was so fast. Nothing to remember except absolutely stupid game, absolutely fast match, and good food there."
Luckily for them, it's an occupational perk on the Hologic WTA Tour. There are, of course, the tried and true classics, like pastries in Paris or pasta in Rome. Then you have the melting-pot cuisines of Melbourne or New York. For players who spend the bulk of the year away from any semblance of home cooking, finding something that feels like home can mean the world.
It's no surprise then that food is a major talking point in the locker room. Players frequently exchange notes on the best coffee spots and dining offerings, both onsite and off. After all, this is a tour that once had an official Zagat's guide that included restaurant reviews from the players.
Food can fuel a player's in-tournament success and, nowadays, become a meme. Iga Swiatek loves tiramisu so much the US Open put a slice in her trophy. Zhang Shuai snacked on a mid-match bread roll in Tokyo last year and beat Caroline Garcia. Coco Gauff's changeover fruit salad was a wholesome amusement all season. Aliaksandra Sasnovich put Brisbane's mushroom risotto on the map during her stunning run to the final in 2018.
Will Sasnovich watch tonight’s semifinal between Pliskova-Svitolina?— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) January 5, 2018
“No, I will do the same thing, my favorite thing: Eat. Every day I go to the same French restaurant and have risotto with mushrooms. So, the finalist eats risotto with mushrooms!"
During her run to the Beijing semifinals in October, Gauff leaned into the local food and found success. Fried rice and noodles, comforting soups, all topped with chili oil and vinegar, Gauff made herself right at home.
"It feels like a warm hug," Gauff said. "I feel like the people in China in general live very long, and I told my team, I have to eat this every day. If you eat this every day, you'll live a long time.
"When you eat something and it just feels like it automatically heals you, that's what I feel like. I've been eating it every day. I think that's why I've been playing so good."
So which tournament cities reliably deliver on the culinary needs of the players? Here's what they had to say:
Yulia Putintseva: "That's a tough one because I love good meals. I love Japan. My favorite food is there. And Italy. If I can pick one of those, Italian or Japanese, those are my favorites.
"When I'm in Japan, I eat sushi every day. I love all kinds of fish, toro, uni. One time I went to a restaurant in Japan and I asked the chef to give me something good to try. He gave me some kind of fish, I don't even know the name, and it blew my mind. Give me 10."
Magda Linette: "Rome is incredible. There is a restaurant that all the players go to, Taverna Trilussa. My Croatian coach took me there for the first time. I had always heard about it but I had never went. It was great, it was amazing, you can't go wrong.
"I also love the food in Madrid, even on site. It's so good."
Wang Xinyu: "I like Tokyo. They have the best food. I can't choose a restaurant because there are too many. But their on-site food is the best."
Mirra Andreeva: "I really want to visit Japan. I really want to go to Tokyo because I love sushi. If I have the chance to eat sushi I would eat it every day. I was in Madrid and we had sushi with caramelized pear. They put a fire on the sushi, so it was burning. It was so good. I'm dreaming about this sushi.
"But normally, I just eat pasta and chicken at tournaments."
Ons Jabeur: "One thing I love having is Korean BBQ. The best ones I had were in Australia or the United States.
"Also, I went to a restaurant in New York with my sponsor, Lotto, and it was a steakhouse. They have knives where they write your name on it. So if you go there, there is my knife with my name on it next to Will Smith's. When I go there, I can eat with my knife."