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Chani on her great 2011

By Mark Etheridge

Our top-ranked women’s tennis player, Chani Scheepers has hung up her racket for the year after a hugely successful season on the┬á WTA Tour.

She took some time out on her return to South Africa to look back at her year for Road to London 2012.

You ended 2010 ranked the world’s 107th women’s sIngles player. Had you been told you would have moved up to 38th spot at the end of 2011 would you have been at all surprised?
No, not really. I completely remodelled my game towards the end of the year in 2010 in order to be a top 50 player. So the first part of 2011 I was still having to put a lot of mental effort in to the new changes in my game, and under pressure I tended to go back to my old game. Now at the end of 2011, I feel comfortable with my new game against the best in the world, especially under extreme pressure. I completely believed in the changes I made to my game, and it was just a matter of time before it would pay off. My goal was to be top 50 at the end of 2011, and I have comfortably achieved it.

Having moved up to 38th now what are your goals in terms of rankings for the year of 2012?
My goals are to constantly improve my game and get better, day in and day out. For 2012 I would like to be top 20.

What would you say were the main reasons for your great improvement during the year?
I made some big changes to my forehand, and my serve. It took a lot of time working on these shots, even throughout the year during tournaments. I lost a lot of close three-set matches this year, but I persisted with trying to dominate with my forehand and hit big serves. Towards the end of 2011 I was able to win every three-set match I played because I really believed in myself and my game. I also put a lot of emphasis on playing defense this year, trying to make as many balls when I’m on the run.

Will your training/match schedule for 2012 change much or do you think you’ve hit the right formula now?
I think i’ve found a pretty good formula now. In training I will continue to push myself to a level out of my comfort zone, and I’ll enter all the big events with a mindset of going to compete hard and win them.

Which part of your game improved the most this year and what area do you think still needs the most work?
Definitely my forehand and serve have been a huge improvement this year. I added a lot of spin to my forehand and increased the speed on my first serve, giving me┬áa lot more free points. I will continue to work on “skill shots” , (i.e: running up to drop shots and angling them off the court, and slicing my backhand as a change of pace) because in today’s modern game you find yourself in situations where you have to improvise and hit these “skill shots”.

Tell us just how much winning your first WTA tournament [in China] meant to you.. both in confidence and in not having to play as many qualifying tournaments?
It was an amazing feeling winning my first WTA title. It just reinforced the belief I already had and I’m excited as to what the future holds for me, as I’m just beginning to realize what I’m capable of achieving. This title will give me a good foundation for the 2012 season as I’ll get directly into the main draws at all the big tournaments.
Of all the players you played during the year, who gave you the most problems, no matter how high or low they were ranked?
Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova. Petra plays a really big game, hitting a lot of winners and then not making many mistakes. Her first and second serve is also really big. Thus, the rallies are short and there is no rhythm to the match. I still gave her a run for her money in Cincinnati this year, but you never feel comfortable playing her

With the Olympics coming up next year.. do you have any thoughts of representing SA at the Olympics?
Unfortunately I will not be eligible to play the Olympics next year. In order to qualify I have to play Fed Cup for SA, and conflicting scheduling has not allowed me to play Fed Cup this year. I would have had to give up playing Madrid and Rome which are two of the biggest tournaments of the year to play Fed Cup, as SA is in a really low group. It was in the best interest of my career to play Madrid, although I really would like to represent SA in Fed Cup. I have a really special case because I am probably the only player in the top 50 who represents a country in such a low Fed Cup Group that is scheduled to play Fed Cup the same week as a mandatory tournament like Madrid. I expressed my concern to the ITF, but they just got an Olympic consultant to reply by quoting the Olympic eligibility rules.

What are your plans for your break? Are you back in Harrismith for a few weeks or are you going on holiday?
I spent a few days in Key West, Florida relaxing after the season. I’ll be in SA spending some time with my family the first two weeks of November before heading back to Florida to start training for the Australian Open.

Last word went to Chani’s coach, Roger Anderson:
Chani has worked extremely hard the past two years, she has sacrificed a lot and become a true professional both on and off the court. She has earned her recent success and deserves to be among the elite professional players in the world. She has supported herself and persisted on this journey as a pro tennis player over the past eight years and I’m extremely proud to have helped guide her to the top over the last two years. She is an example to every young athlete in South Africa, that hard work and belief along with the right support structure will bring the best out in you.


1 comments
Wendy
Wendy

Well done Chani - excellent year!