You saw her at the Australian Open when she was only 17, eyes half-open in the strong Melbourne sun, you cheered for her when she won her first WTA tournament in Tashkent and you keep your fingers crossed so that she fulfills her dream: to get to the top of the women’s tennis rankings!
“I’m working hard during the winter break because my goal for 2009 is to get inside top 10″ explained Sorana when I asked if she can spare a few hours for an interview. She agreed without hesitation and without checking her schedule, telling me right away that she is glad to meet for an interview. Between the morning training on the tennis court and the afternoon physiotherapy session (she had an injury on her left arm), Sorana met me in front of the FRT (Romanian Tennis Federation) building in Bucharest in a cold December day.
People don’t recognize her on the street
“Where do you want to take my picture?” she asked smiling as if we knew each other for a lifetime. We were now in the center of Bucharest in front of the University building and Sorana sat for a photo by one of the used book stands. It’s almost time for high school graduation exams for the best women’s tennis player in Romania and she is very aware of this new exam coming her way: “I was in Targoviste (Sorana’s home town) over the last couple of days… I have to go to school whenever I can. Next summer I have to pass the exams and there’s lots to study but I can manage”. She smiles, her face radiant with ambition. ” I want to get into college next fall, nothing sports-related… I was thinking Management, something business-related…I don’t know yet, I’ll figure it out by then” said the future student while we were crossing the interior yard of the old University.
The students and the other passers-by, hurrying to the subway station to escape the strong wind blowing that day in Bucharest, did not turn their heads after Sorana, (a tennis player that successfully represents Romania all over the world) as they would after Nicoleta Luciu (Romanian tabloid celebrity). “People on the street don’t recognize me because I look different than on TV or on the tennis court. I don’t mind it. I spend so little time in Romainia, and every time I’m here, especially during the winter, I am extremely tanned compared to everybody… it’s obvious every time I’m on the street. I like to interact with people and I don’t turn away when somebody asks for an autograph.”
Sorana, the winter holidays and her family
“I see my parents every time I’m in Romania. They are the first in line waiting for me at the airport and when I’m away playing tournaments we talk on the phone all the time. My dad is frightened that I spend so much time flying and every time I step into a plane he’s on needles until I call to tell him I arrived safely” - Sorana’s words about the relationship of an 18 year old tennis player with her family. “I am grateful to my parents for everything they did for me. If they wouldn’t have loved the sports as much as they do, I wouldn’t be here today. More so, If my mom and dad didn’t raise me to have a winner’s mentality – to fight to the last point in every match and not to give up even if I’m behind 2 sets and 5-0, not to take anything for granted and mostly not to forget where I’m coming from – I probably wouldn’t play tennis at this level.”
As it started to rain outside, I thought we’ll end the afternoon over a cup of tea. “It’s great that we found a table in the non-smoking area …a tea please!” she decides immediately. We started talking about food, fitness and everything she does to stay in shape for the matches against the likes of Jankovic, Ivanovic or the Williams sisters.
“I follow a very strict diet, chicken, fish and beef, all grilled, fruits and veggies…of course if I really really miss it, I’ll eat a bit of chocolate…I’m not gonna kill myself over it (she laughs). Fast food?!! Yes, of course …only the salads”. She is surprisingly sincere. ” During the holidays I’ll be at home with my folks, but won’t eat any of my mother’s tasty traditional meals. At most, I’ll have some chicken sarmale (Romanian cabbage rolls – traditionally filled with pork)”.
About Nadal and Federer
Who’s better to ask about these two great tennis players than somebody who bumps into them in hotels or on tournament coridors. ” Oh, Rafa is a super nice guy. He’s always surrounded by friends, by his spaniards, you can hear him loughing, singing, telling jokes..he is very sociable and pleasant. The girls are after him every time he shows up. I’m telling you, in person he’s even cuter than on TV”.
What about Federer? “Well, Federer is exactly the way he plays, elegant, educated..sometimes at parties or when more of us get together he looks like he’d like to loosen up and get into conversations but he spends most of the time with his girlfrend, Mirka”. What about you? nobody special on the tennis courts? She is loughing. “No time for things like that for now. That time wil come, but for now It’s 100% tennis. Anyway, what kind of relationship can you have when you’re away every couple of weeks?”
Source: Andra Popa, Hotnews.ro – translated from Romanian