After capturing her first title of the year in Rabat one and a half weeks ago, Timea Bacsinszky arrived at the Mutua Madrid Open with a new trophy in her bag — but also a fairly empty tank, trying to navigate her way through the draw on the few reserves she has left. Madrid champion Simona Halep eventually ended her campaign in the Spanish capital. Afterwards she headed straight to Rome to recover, prepare for the tournament and get inspired by the Eternal City. René Denfeld caught up with the 26-year-old after her second-round win over Lesia Tsurenko.
Timea Bacsinszky has been able to get two comfortable wins under her belt on the Italian clay, beating Yanina Wickmayer in straight sets and then taking out Lesia Tsurenko at the loss of 6 games on Wednesday — even if the second set proved to be her most challenging so far with both the Ukrainian and the Swiss being engaged in gruelling rallies, trading blows on their laser-sharp backhands and trying to outmaneuver each other with loopier forehands. In the end, it was the 2015 French Open semifinalist who walked away with the win in the Eternal City, having entered the tournament refreshed and recharged — a complete opposite to her experience in Madrid.
“In Madrid I needed some days of rest because it was too much,” the 26-year-old said, looking back at her run in Rabat and the quick turnaround in the Spanish capital.
“I know Stosur made the semifinals, but she also got the walkover from Safarova in the second round and it counts a lot, so I would have loved to have that and probably it would have given me one more day to recover cause I think against Halep I played pretty early in the day and I wish I could’ve played later!”
After her victory in Morocco on the Saturday one and a half weeks ago, it was a whirlwind 24 hours for Bacsinszky, who had to head over to Madrid to play her first-round match at the Caja Magica on a Sunday, facing a tough opening encounter against Andrea Petkovic, and even then the Swiss knew her tank was going to run empty at some point. Bacsinszky managed to make it through her opening two matches at the Mutua Madrid Open. In her third round, however, the physical and mental fatigue of playing 8 tough matches on clay within 9 days began to take its toll.
“To be able to adapt myself so well all of a sudden on the clay [and altitude] of Madrid after Rabat was something I was really proud of,” Bacsinszky resumed, evaluating her performance in Spain.
“Unluckily, I couldn’t win more and that’s what I was saying and even the hours to recover were important. I wish I played Halep at like six in the evening or at eight cause I tell you: the hours really make a difference at this level!”
After her stressful week and a half, the world number 10 decided to head straight to Italy instead of opting to return to Switzerland before making the trip to Rome — a decision she hasn’t regretted by any means whatsoever.
“After Madrid I tried to sleep a lot, I came here and really it’s one of the first times I came to a tournament this early, especially in Europe, so we decided not to go back home but to come here and then I worked a lot with my physio as well to get my body ready. For sure I still have some things that are hurting, but probably every players has these, so it’s normal,” the Swiss admitted with a smile.
“I played a lot in the last three weeks, so I’m not surprised by it but it was also nice for me to practice maybe only once a day and get treatments and then in the afternoon to be able to do a tour in Rome, in the city,” Bacsinszky explained before adding the honorific of the Italian capital: “The Eternal City!”
Most of the people playing competitive tennis, working in tennis in a certain capacity — even fans visiting tournaments, often struggle to combine attending an event and actually soaking in the culture and sights the host cities have to offer and it was the same for Bacsinszky in Madrid after her late arrival from Morocco, which is why the 10th seed was welcoming the change in pace, heading to a European tournament early to breathe a little bit of “La Bella Vita” and the Roman history.
“In Madrid I haven’t seen anything else other than the hotel and the tournament site,” Bacsinszky said in hindsight. “I’m really happy that here I could do like a few steps in the city of Rome and see some of the center. It gives you so much energy to do something different and my boyfriend joined me also here, so it was nice to do it together. He usually travels with me, but he wasn’t in Madrid and the week before in Rabat, so it was nice to have him here in Rome.”
— Timea Bacsinszky (@TimeaOfficial) May 7, 2016
“We could like walk around and see the monuments cause there are so many things to see — and so much history under your feet, you’re walking left and right you see something, you know, happened here and the old Rome [that’s] just around the Colosseum is just amazing. It gave me a lot of power and energy to recover maybe better.”
Bacsinszky is going to need that kind of recovery for her third-round match on Thursday. In one of several battles of players who feel right at home on the slippery red carpet that’s rolled around the European courts in spring time, the world number 10 will face Carla Suarez Navarro — an encounter that promises to see both players employ all sorts of crafty claycourt tactics with angles, drop shots and a variety of different spins, attempting to manipulate the surface prone to uneven bounces to their advantage.
“It’s gonna be fun to watch for the people probably, because we both know how to play on clay and we use our tricks quite well and I will definitely have fun tomorrow to play!” the Swiss said, anticipating a long and possibly tough match.
“I think I won once and I lost once, erm, last time was at the French Open in 2014 and I wasn’t fit at all — I mean, I was fit, I was alright, but I’m much more prepared right now and it was a tough one. 7-5 in the third and it was really a close one and it was already great for me in 2014 to be so close to beat someone who has ranked maybe 12 in the world.
Now I know I improved a lot and we played each other quite enough times, but on clay it’s only our third time but it’s gonna be interesting it’s a big challenge for me and I know how competitive she is as well — so I’m aware that it’s probably gonna be a really big battle.”
And of course, with Bacsinszky’s experience and her big picture outlook on the game, as well as life in general, she finalized her own match preview with some fitting perspective — the kind you’d expect from someone who’s trying to live in the moment.
“If I win, it can be awesome, and if I lose — well, it’s only a tennis match, so it happens.”
Timea Bacsinszky will face Carla Suarez Navarro Thursday at 11am on Grandstand court at the Internazionali BNP d’Italia.