Power and Perfume Launch Family Circle Cup
April 12, 2010 -- No one doubts that women's tennis has bulked up. Take one look at any WTA top-100 player snapped by a rapid-fire digital camera and you'll see that girls have guns.
Amongst the seven top-seeded players at today's Family Circle Cup's all-media hour, the majority said fitness training is their top priority. And that's because power is central to winning.
Daniela Hantuchova trains with Pat Etcheberry, founder of the Pat Etcheberry Experience. His name has been associated with such tennis greats as Justine Henin, Gabriela Sabatini, and Pete Sampras. Daniela attributes her improved results on tour to Etcheberry's intensive training.
"I'm starting to benefit from the work. It's been a long process," Daniela said. "But over the year it's starting to show up. I'm feeling very good at this point."
Weight training has been key. Weights add muscle, which means power. More power to hit harder. More power in her legs means better balance and a better base to hit from.
"Endurance has never been my problem" Daniela began. "I can stay on the court for three hours, no problem. But definitely with today's game you definitely need more power."
Her mental game works in tandem with her physical fitness. She believes they are connected. That with better fitness comes better match play and a better connection with the mind, as if all these elements weave a multi-dimensional pattern of success.
The sum game is confidence. Limited injuries, too, have blessed Daniela with longevity on the WTA tour, her home for over ten years.
"The work I've been doing the last few months gives me a lot of confidence when I walk on the court," Daniela said, with a cadence to her voice that left the impression of assurance. "I'm trying to be really focused on what I do on the practice courts and in the fitness room. It becomes much easier to forget stuff in a match, when you know you're working that hard."
But all is not a power play for the six-foot-one Slovakian woman, who is seeded #8 this week in Charleston. Her current favorite perfume, which she was happy to share, is 'Envy Me,' by Gucci -- a floral fruity fragrance, as described by the Italian manufacturing giant.
Asked about her nutrition, a big grin appeared.
"I have to have something sweet with, basically, every meal I eat," Daniela admitted, adding that crabs with Nutella is her favorite indulgence.
She, like other players here today, look forward to The Family Circle Cup. After all, it's just for women. Dove, the presenting sponsor this year, lends an overall sense of feminine cleansing and purity. Mix that with the couches players rest in at changeovers on stadium court and a very relaxing atmosphere emanates throughout the site, something akin to an island getaway.
"Yeah, it's a very feminine tournament," Daniela started, smiling once again. "I haven't been here in a very long time, but now that I've matured and come back I realize that it is very friendly for the girls. We feel very relaxed here. It's especially nice to have something like this after all the craziness of Miami. So, I'm really glad I'm playing here."
Jelena Jankovic, seeded second, hungers for power, too. To that end, Jelena, like Daniela Hantuchova, changed her training regimen. However, the Serbian star has gone in the opposite direction.
"Last year I wanted to be fitter because I was one of the weakest girls in all of the top ten. They had bigger guns," Jelena said, laughing. "I wanted to be stronger, so I could have more power hitting the ball. But I lost my speed. It was a good learning experience for me."
Jelena only works with lighter weights, now. She is less bulky, healthier, and happier.
"I do a lot of footwork and some running for endurance. For me, the way you train on court is what matters. When I start playing matches that is the best training. It's the pressure that matters."
Bottom line... she is improving, which we all knew since she won the title at this year's BNP Paribas Open, for the first time.
Jelena likes to show off her feminine side, too, while pounding the ball in a match. She endorses Anta, a Chinese company she's been with for about a year. The dresses from Anta are bright and, as Jelena said, fit her personality. A little dab of Burberry's The Beat adds a 'sparkling floral woody fragrance,' or so says the marketing pens from Burberry, which certainly fits her personality as well.
Marion Bartoli wakes each morning and immediately ponders her fitness schedule for the day. It's that much of a priority. Her improvement comes less from a practice court than from training. She first changed her routine in 2007 because she was at a standstill.
"It was more about my physical shape," Marion said emphatically. "I couldn't improve when practicing only tennis. So I completely switched it."
When Marion made the final at Wimbledon in 2007, against eventual champion Venus Williams, she never stepped on a practice court.
"Every single day I was in the gym before the match," she said. "I never hit one tennis ball [in practice] for the whole two weeks. The five minute on court was enough for me to warmup my strokes."
To keep her mental concentration at its highest revolutions, Marion plays Nintendo's DS Brain Academy, a game that measures the weight of your brain.
"I get beyond the computer," Marion explained, meaning she outscores the software. "I think it helps my vision for the game."
Dr. Walter Bartoli, a generalist physician professionally and Marion's father and lifelong coach, has always known of Marion's penchant for intellectual heights. As he traveled to see patients in Corsica, Marion traveled with him and did her homework. She was the girl in your class you knew would get the highest score, on any test.
"I never finished a year in school without being number one," Marion said, with pride.
However, even Marion Bartoli, the 12th ranked player in the world, giggles when she confesses her attraction to expensive clothes from Oscar de la Renta and Chanel No. 5 perfume. The fragrance that claims to be "the ultimate in femininity" would have to be to the liking of a French woman who beats the ball with two hands from both sides, and uses one of the most unique service motions on tour.
Vive la difference!