MADRID, Spain - Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova credits a new attitude and improved discipline for her strong start to the 2017 season. The 25-year-old Russian started her season at No.27 and is up to No.16, her highest ranking since 2012, after capturing her second title of the year at the Grand Prix De SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem. Pavlyuchenkova's win in Rabat came on the heels of a title run in Monterrey two weeks earlier.
WTA Insider caught up with Pavlyuchenkova at the Mutua Madrid Open to discuss her strong 2017 season. Is this the year we see the best of the Russian prodigy?
WTA Insider: Two titles this year. Life must be feeling pretty good. Talk about your week in Rabat.
Pavlyuchenkova: It feels amazing. Just now I started to really realize I almost, in a row, won those two titles. It's great. It seems to be one of my best seasons so far in my career. I love to lift the trophies.
But I'm trying to stay humble, feet on the ground, because I know a season is very long, a tennis career is very long. Every week there is a new tournament. I flew and arrived late on Saturday and had to play yesterday. Every day you have to be ready for the next one. Every time, it's very tough.
WTA Insider: Do you give yourself the opportunity to celebrate and let it sink in?
Pavlyuchenkova: It's a good question because it's 50-50. I want to celebrate but you cannot really go full because you have to be ready to play here. At the same time you want to give yourself the chance to feel good about it. You deserve to celebrate because you've done something great. I accomplished something good last week, I fought every match, I deserved this title.
Sometimes you're afraid to relax or celebrate too much because I always say to myself, listen, you have a tournament next week. You cannot just relax. You have to stay focused. Sometimes you have the feeling that if I start to celebrate too much, what if I'm going to be too loose, too relaxed for the next tournament or next match? So it's a thin line.
But with Simon, we tried to balance this. We try to enjoy because I'm not a robot either. I like to enjoy life off the court. We still didn't have the time to celebrate, but mentally I was taking it cool. It is how it is.
WTA Insider: In addition to the two titles, you've been playing more consistent tennis this season. What's working for you that maybe wasn't happening before?
Pavlyuchenkova: It's the way I'm approaching myself. The discipline. Even simple things, like sometimes I would not do a cool down after matches, or if I lost a match I would pack my bags and leave the site right away. It's those little pieces, little details.
Also staying in shape throughout the long season. I was on and off, up and down with my training program and there were times I was fit, there were times I was really not fit. I could not keep consistent with that as well. I think that's the main key and I keep on progressing and working a lot week after week. That's the main key.
Between me and Simon we just found something that clicked. It's working so far. We don't know what it is exactly. Everyone knows how to hit forehands and backhands. There are no magic words.
I think I'm appreciating more what I have in the tennis life. There was a time I thought I would take a break. I was not enjoying it anymore. It's too tough. Why am I doing this? I sacrificed a lot and I hate to lose. I get so down. Why am I doing it?
So now I'm finding ways to enjoy it, working hard, battling through matches. I'm trying to enjoy the fight.
WTA Insider: How hard is it to find that balance? You want to enjoy your life but it takes so much to be an elite tennis player. Are you still in the process of figuring that out?
Pavlyuchenkova: For sure. I'm 25. It's not like I'm really young, I'm in the middle of my career. It's not that I regret the past, but I feel like I didn't put 100% of my best. I could have done much more, maybe, in terms of my discipline and putting the work in. Of course, you never know what's going to happen, if I'm going to achieve something big or not. We don't know. But at least I can tell myself ok, I'm going to do it 100%, I'm going to do it right.
I think I'm a quite easy going person. I take it seriously but the time on court, I do what my coach tells me to do. I do my fitness program, but the rest I don't take it too seriously. I'm cool about it. Sometimes I can go play a match without a warm-up. I'm not going to go crazy if I don't hit some balls. You need to be confident in yourself and know what to do.
WTA Insider: If your career ended after last year, would you have been able to say you did it the way you wanted to do? Is that what you mean by regret?
Pavlyuchenkova: Yes. I would definitely regret. If for some reason I had to stop I would never feel that I've done what I can do. That I did my maximum, that I used all my resources? No.
WTA Insider: Is that a difficult thing to admit to yourself?
Pavlyuchenkova: Yes, but I'm honest with myself. I can accept and admit if I've done something wrong. I never put my mistakes or my losses on someone else. If I lose a match, it's never the linesman or the umpire, it's never my coach or someone on my team. It's always me. I always punish myself. It's nobody's fault. I was alone on the court.
Same as this. It's tough to admit but at the same time it gives you motivation. I'm was close to Top 20 without feeling like I gave my all and my 100%. That means I have a lot to improve and I have a chance to go further.
It's sometimes tough of course because when you regret, you regret. But now it's done. Now we move forward.
WTA Insider: This must feel like such a reward then?
Pavlyuchenkova: I hope so. That's why I feel like this season is different from the other seasons because I kind of realized something myself and it's coming only from me. Of course, finding the right people around you, that matters as well. But I do think you have to start with yourself. You're the key. Your team is following you. I would love to believe that I'm doing everything right and I'm on the right way and hopefully I can still get better results this season or in the future.