I knew who I wanted to be the focus of my next feature post… Mona Barthel! I’ve been a fan of Mona’s for quite a few years now. I first learnt of Mona in 2011 when she raced through three qualifying matches at the French Open and went onto win her first main draw match at a Grand Slam, defeating Sybille Bammer. In her next tournament, Barthel reached her first WTA semi-final in Copenhagen and beat two top 50 players before falling to then world number one, Caroline Wozniacki.
It was the start of 2012 when Barthel really began to make significant ripples on the WTA tour. In her second tournament of the year, Barthel won her first WTA title in Hobart, coming through qualifying and beating four top 35 players in the main draw. In the final, it all fell into place as she beat Yanina Wickmayer, 6-1 6-2. I was most impressed by the power, fluidity and elegance of Barthel’s groundstrokes. She is sound off both wings and also has an excellent serve. Barthel continued to impress during the first half of 2012 and shone in front of her home crowd in Stuttgart, beating Ana Ivanovic and Marion Bartoli before just pulling up short in a superb quarter-final match against Victoria Azarenka which featured as one of my top ten favourite matches that year. It was the second time in two months that Barthel had pushed the then world number one Azarenka deep in a third set.
Barthel struggled during the second half of 2012 to back up her early promise. She had a remarkably similar season in 2013, starting well but tailing off towards the end. She produced some excellent results early on in 2013 including another final appearance in Hobart and a first Premier title at the Paris Indoors tournament, beating the likes of Marion Bartoli, Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani. More recently, injuries and illness have halted her momentum on tour. Still, that being said, Barthel looks like she will finish 2015 around the world’s top 50.
I’m chuffed to say that I was able to pose some questions to Mona via e-mail… A huge thank you to Mona and her team for their time! Here’s Mona discussing how she got into tennis, her feelings about the 2015 season and plans for the off-season.
1. How old were you when you first played tennis and when did you realise you wanted to be a tennis player?
I started really young. As soon as I started to walk I grabbed a tennis racquet. My whole family played tennis, so I spent a lot of time on the court watching my sister practice. As long as I can remember I wanted to be a professional tennis player. Steffi Graf was my idol growing up and I wanted to do the same she was doing.
2. How would you assess your 2015 season?
I’ve been unlucky with illnesses and injuries this year but I am trying to learn from it. In the second half of the year I was feeling much better and I had much better results. I am happy that with all the injuries I had, I could finish the year around the top 50 in the world. I will definitely work on a lot of things in the off-season, but of course a lot of focus will be on getting strong and fit to stay healthy throughout the year.
3. What do you think has been your best match of the year so far? Any matches that you wish you could replay?
I think there are some matches I am proud of especially in the second half of the year. What I learned this year was even when I am not feeling well, I have to try to find a way to win the match.
I wouldn’t say there is any match I would like to replay, of course there are matches I would play differently now. But that’s all part of the process. There is rarely a match when I go off the court and I am happy with all parts of my game. I always see things to improve and I think that’s the most important part. To keep finding ways to get better and to try and incorporate them in the next match.
4. What is your favourite Grand Slam?
I love all of the Grand Slams and I am always looking forward to go to the next one. They all have their very own unique character and it is nice to have all of them in my life.
5. What is your preferred court surface to play on?
It is probably hard court, but the more I play on clay and grass, the more I like them, so it is close to being even now.
6. What is your favourite shot?
That’s a secret 🙂
7. Of your three WTA singles titles in Hobart, Paris and Bastad, does one stand out as being particularly memorable for you?
They are all very special to me and winning a tournament is always something I love to remember. I couldn’t decide.
8. How do you rate the importance of playing doubles? Is it something you enjoy?
I love to play doubles. This year I was trying to play a little bit more, but it is not always easy to fit it into my schedule. I think I can learn a lot by playing doubles, that is also helping me for my singles. But I also have to keep in mind by playing doubles it could be too much physically so it is important to find a good balance.
9. How do you go about planning your schedule for a season and choosing which tournaments to play? Aside from the Slams and Premier Mandatory events, are there some tournaments that you always want to play?
Of course there are some tournaments I always love to go back to like Bastad and Hobart. I feel very comfortable there and I had some very good success. But there are a lot of factors depending on my schedule like my rankings, if I need some rest or I want to just have a week of practice. Also the travelling and the conditions at a tournament plays a role. I just try to find a good balance.
10. Who makes up your team when travelling to different tournaments?
I normally always have someone travelling with me like my mom or a coach.
11. What are your interests away from tennis?
I am really interested in living a healthy lifestyle and treating my body with love and respect. Especially in this season with all my injuries and illnesses I realized how important it is. In my job I always challenge my body to go to the limit so I try to give something back.
12. What are your plans for the off-season?
First of all I will take some time off for my body to relax and get back some energy, and then I will start to work a lot more physically and I will try to improve a lot of things in my game.
13. Any aims/goals for the 2016 season?
Staying healthy, improving every day and enjoying what I am doing.
14. And finally… are there any plans to join Twitter?!
Maybe… I am not so sure yet.