12/04/2012 – Twelve months is a long time in tennis. Last April, Timea Babos was just another talented prospect.
And 365 days, 57 match wins and one WTA title later, it is safe to say Babos has made that impression.
But what makes the Hungarian, who is still a month shy of her 19th birthday, tick? We sat down with her after an epic first round win over Kimiko Date-Krumm at the e-Boks Open in Copenhagen to find out.
How did you get started in tennis?
TB: I didn’t start until I was about eight. I have a very sporty family and my dad played almost every sport and it was him who encouraged me to start playing at our family tennis club. I was actually originally a swimmer and was National Champion in Hungary but it was quite boring and very hard work so I started to come with my sister to tennis practice. Originally tennis was just for fun, but then my dad saw I had some talent and I started to concentrate more on it and eventually stopped swimming.
Can you tell us a little bit about your family?
TB: My dad is called Csaba and he is a tennis coach at the club my family owns in Sopron. My mother, Zsuzsanna, is a housewife and I also have an older sister, Susie, who is 26. She was also a very good player and won NCAA titles when studying at Berkley in the US.
Who is coaching you at the moment?
TB: My dad still coaches me part-time but he realized if I was to take tennis seriously he needed to get other coaches involved; at 15 I went to train in the UK for a few years and then in 2010 I got a good sponsorship deal which meant I could come back and train in Budapest.
How would you describe your playing style and what are your strengths and weaknesses?
TB: I am an aggressive player and because I’m tall and quite athletic I try to approach the net often and go for winners a lot. But I’m not only aggressive, my dad also taught me, not a defensive game, but a neutral one, where I can hit slice and drop shots sometimes. Because of my height and power my biggest strength is my serve, which really helps when I’m playing on faster courts like grass or indoor hard. The part of my tennis I’m trying to work on is my concentration and I’ve recently started working with a psychologist to help improve this.
Did you have a tennis idol growing up?
TB: Yes, it was Elena Dementieva. I really liked her style of play and, although she never won a Grand Slam, she was always at or near the top and also won the Olympics. She didn’t seem arrogant and was always nice to the junior players at Grand Slams. Despite being so successful she seemed to be a nice person.
What is your best tennis memory so far?
TB: This is a tough one! Winning junior Grand Slam titles was very exciting, but probably the best memory would be winning in Monterrey. Sometimes it’s not just winning the tournament that makes a tournament special and Monterrey was somewhere when I really liked the atmosphere. The people at the tournament were also really nice and it was just a great week.
Who has been your toughest opponent to date?
TB: Another tough question! At every tournament each week there is someone difficult to play. Sara Errani was really difficult as she is so fit and fast. But so far I would say Kimiko Date-Krumm. I lost to her in January and then we had another really close match this week. There are always some people who you have tough matches with and my coach said to me that Kimiko could be that person for me!
What are your goals in tennis?
TB: Short-term, I would really like to make it into the Top 50 so I can play in the Olympics. I’m already not far off this and to play in the Olympics is a big dream for me. For my whole career, I would like to make the Top 20 or Top 15 and one day play in a Grand Slam final. Which one? Probably Wimbledon.
What is your favorite tournament?
TB: Although it’s not the best or most glamorous tournament, I really like playing Budapest. It’s nice to have the fans on my side and to be able to see my friends and family after the tournament.
How far did you go in your education?
TB: My dad was crazy about education so I did quite well at school. If I didn’t get mostly As and Bs at school, he said he wouldn’t let me practice. One time I tested him and got quite a few Cs one semester; I ended up not playing tennis for a month!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
TB: Just hanging out with my friends from Hungary. I’m not always thinking about tennis and practice so sometimes it’s nice to relax and listen to music or reading a book.
If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would it be?
If you could meet anyone in the world who would you like it to be?
TB: Not necessarily one person. Just any famous fashion designer, so I could get them to design my tennis outfits. Perhaps Gucci or Prada.
Is there something else you would like people to know about you?
TB: I’m a big collector. I have loads and loads of shoes. Far more than someone my age should have. I also used to have about 2,000 DVDs at home. Then I realized I could store them on my computer and they didn’t have to be taking up all that space that could be used for other things… like shoes!