Lesia Tsurenko came to the Abierto Mexicano Telcel on a mission after a tough loss at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. The No.7 seed ended up rolling to her third career title in Acapulco, dismissing February favorite Kristina Mladenovic in straight sets to return to the Top 50 ahead of the BNP Paribas Open, one of her favorite tournaments.
WTA Insider caught up with the Ukrainian after her on-court fiesta to discuss the key to her confidence, her work with a new fitness coach, and how she hopes to hold onto that sombrero given to her during the trophy ceremony.
WTA Insider: I have to start with this: was this your first time wearing a sombrero?
Tsurenko: It was, but that's because it was my first time winning a title in Mexico! Wearing a sombrero will always be something special for me and I'm glad this was the first time.
WTA Insider: In such a tense second set, what was going through your mind at 4-5 when you were serving to stay in it after all those breaks?
Tsurenko: I think I played really well in the first set, and I felt very confident. In the second, she changed her game a little bit and she started to play more aggressively. I was also getting more nervous because I felt this title was getting closer to me. The most important game was definitely on my serve at 4-5, and I was really happy to hold on. I felt like I could finish that match there.
WTA Insider: Kiki's had such a good couple of weeks, but you'd beaten her three times before; what is your mindset going in against that type of player?
Tsurenko: I've beaten her before, but I also lost to her in Dubai last year. I know how she plays pretty well; she's got a good serve and forehand. I was trying to focus on the way that I play and on my shots. I think that works well for me because it's just you on your side of the court, and it makes me more nervous to start thinking about the opponent. Just hit the ball and do your shots; that's the key, and then just fight for every point.
WTA Insider: You've had some tough draws to start the season - playing Angelique Kerber at the Australian Open and Peng Shuai in Dubai. How were you feeling at the start of the week and is this title something of a surprise?
Tsurenko: I was quite disappointed with my disappointment in Dubai, so I was really concentrating here. I really wanted to play well here to show some good tennis after disappointing results in Dubai. That worked really well for me; I was concentrating on each point in every match and it worked well. I'm really happy to get the title.
WTA Insider: You're a player whose struggled with injuries; when we last spoke, you were dragging around a big ice bag for your knee at the US Open. This week, it was some of your opponents who were having some injury and illness issues. How were you feeling to be on the other end, to be the fitter and healthier player?
Tsurenko: I've had quite a few injuries, but I try not to think about those. That's just how it is and I'm getting fitter and fitter. I've been working on my body, and that's been working well for me, just to feel balanced in every angle of tennis. The beginning of the year was strange for me; I had a virus in Brisbane, and still feeling unwell in Hobart. Everything's in the past, and I hope to get a lot of confidence from this win.
WTA Insider: You played Acapulco for the first time just a few years ago, and you've gone from qualies to being a seed, winning the title. What do you make of how fast some of your improvements have been, winning three titles in the last 18 months?
Tsurenko: I've improved my fitness, and I also feel more confident on court, especially with my serve and my groundstrokes. I'm not afraid to make winners and be aggressive. I also feel like I've improved my defense; I'm moving well around the court and that gives me some good results.
WTA Insider: Are you a player who feels like they need confidence to be aggressive on the court?
Tsurenko: Fitness is the most important thing for me, because then I feel like I can play without mistakes, and stay on court for a long time. I'm able to stay concentrated in final sets - when I have to play those. For me, fitness is the biggest difference, but I've also become more aggressive on my serve and return. These two things are essential in women's tennis.
? WTA (@WTA) March 5, 2017
WTA Insider: Speaking of fitness, talk a bit about your team; what kind of changes have you made in terms of recovery?
Tsurenko: I'm still working with the same tennis coach for the last four years now. I'm very happy with the results we've had together. But I do have a new fitness coach, Denis Vaschuk, who is helping to make my body stronger and more balanced. I think that's the big advantage for me now, having him on my team. We work when I'm in Ukraine, and I also get some exercises from him even when we're not traveling together. We keep in touch and that makes me feel even more confident in my fitness and movement.
WTA Insider: Up next for you is the BNP Paribas Open, where you've played some pretty epic matches over the last couple years. What do you like about that tournament and what are you looking forward to most over the next two weeks?
Tsurenko: First of all, I like hardcourts in general, and I really enjoy the tournament in Indian Wells. I like the atmosphere there, and I think the surface suits me well; it's not too fast, so I can show everything that I can do on the court. I like the conditions, and the improvements they make every year; they make the tournament so comfortable for players. I'm really excited to go there now because I know they've been making even more renovations. I hope to get there Sunday so I can see everything.
WTA Insider: What is the one big memory or big moment you'll take away from this week?
Tsurenko: The sombrero! I don't know if they'll let me keep it, but for sure, I'm going to get some nice photos and some good memories.
? WTA (@WTA) March 5, 2017