Timea Bacsinszky

From 25 years of the Tennis Europe Junior Tour:

Though she laments that parental pressure took some of the enjoyment out of her junior days, Timea Bacsinszky has some great memories of her first international tournaments. In recent years, she has reconnected with her love for the game; a passion that has seen her break into the WTA Top 10 this year after reaching her first ever Grand Slam semi-final at the French Open.

Only two players have ever won Les Petits As twice: You and Martina Hingis. Can you still remember playing there?

Yeah, I do remember it well. It was quite amazing at that age to have 4,000 people watching us playing the final. The highlights were shown on Eurosport, so it was really exciting. It’s a junior event, but everything is done so professionally and they make you feel so special, almost like you’re playing a Grand Slam.
The first year I couldn’t believe I won it. I lost so many times to Alyssa Kleybanova. It’s a funny story actually – I really remember losing to her in Auray in a 12 & Under event. We played the final against each other and I was leading 5-2 when her mother started coaching and told her to play loopers [moonballs]. So she did that and I couldn’t cope and eventually I lost 7-5 6-0 or something like that. I didn’t win another game, because I was thinking “this is not tennis” [laughs]. Anyway, I played her again at Tarbes but I managed to win and she was 5-2 up this time but I managed to turn it around, and then the second set was 7-5 again or something…

What about your second year?

Many players fly through the 14 & Under tournaments and don’t get a chance to go back… In 2003 I remember I was so freaked out; it was the first time that I had this pressure – a pressure that you have to learn on the Tour. That’s why the Junior Tour is really good because when you are the defending champion you can replay the tournament and it’s a new kind of pressure. It doesn’t happen that often because you tend to rise an age category, but I think it’s beneficial to try to defend. I learned a little bit how to play with pressure because of that. Great memories; it was an amazing time.

You played in a few team events too. How was that experience?

Oh, I played in Moscow once, at the Winter Cups. I had some purple soup and I didn’t understand what it was – but it turned out to be beetroot soup! I remember playing Michaela Krajicek there, and Ekaterina Makarova, who I also played in Tarbes. I faced so many of today’s top players for the first time on the Tennis Europe Junior Tour.

You didn’t play that much on our Tour when you were younger, but when you did you really made your presence felt…

It’s not something I’d recommend to others. I wasn’t deciding for myself when I was younger. Fortunately and unfortunately. But I think it’s good to play a little bit more than I did. There is plenty of time to be a pro later.

If you had to give some advice to the players that are on the Tennis Europe Junior Tour right now, what would you tell them?

The advice is really to ask yourself, “Do I really love this?” You have to love it. You need to know that you don’t need to win everything. You are going to lose many, many matches. But if you know that you are going to step on court and enjoy it no matter what, that’s the most important thing. Your career is going to be long and you will have plenty of wins, and some losses as well, but you have to be able to accept things. If you can take it that way, your life will be much more enjoyable as a tennis player.