Photo: Elise MertensElise Mertens (BEL)
We recently caught up with Elise Mertens, a five-time singles champion on the ITF Pro Circuit to find out a bit more about her.
ITF Pro Circuit: Can you tell us where were you born and maybe describe the area where you grew up?
Elise Mertens: I was born in Leuven. I grew up in Hamont, where I still live. It's a small, quiet town with lots of green. I am always glad to go back home after tournaments.
Do any other members of your family play sport?
My sister, she plays tennis as well. It is because of her that I got into tennis.
So how did you get started in tennis?
I was 3 ½ - 4-years-old. I started in Bree, 10mins from my hometown and I also played a lot with my sister in our backyard.
Who were/are your tennis idols?
My tennis idols are [Dominika] Cibulkova and [Novak] Djokovic.
What is your greatest tennis memory either as a player or as a fan?
My greatest memories are playing the four Grand Slams as a junior. It was a nice experience to meet all those great pro players.
Who has been the toughest opponent you have faced on court in an ITF Pro Circuit match?
Every match is tough, because every opponent has [their] own game.
In your opinion, what would you say are the best and worst aspects of being a professional tennis player?
The best aspects are to travel around the world, meeting all kinds of people and cultures. It is a way of becoming independent in life. And the best of all is that I am doing what I love the most - playing tennis. The worst aspects are not having my family around and missing my pets.
So far in your career, what has been the nicest ITF Pro Circuit venue that you played at?
The most impressive is sitting in the Arthur Ashe stadium in the US Open.
How have you found players relationships with each other to be at tournaments on the ITF Pro Circuit compared to other Circuits you may have played?
On the ITF Juniors Circuit you see a lot of the same players, so you get to know each other better. On the ITF Pro Circuit you meet less juniors, most of the players are still new for me.
How has playing on the ITF Pro Circuit helped you as a player?
Of course playing against all those different players and players who are higher ranked helps me to develop my game.
Would you recommend that juniors go on to play the ITF Pro Circuit?
The Pro Circuit offers a lot of experience; it is the best way to improve yourself as a tennis player.
Looking at other female players (past & present), name the various players whose attributes you would take to create your own female super player?
Serve: Serena Williams
Forehand: Kim Clijsters
Backhand: Justine Henin
Positioning: Maria Sharapova
Speed on court: Dominika Cibulkova
Concentration: Ana Ivanovic
Fighting spirit: Victoria Azarenka
Entertainment: Francesca Schiavone
If you could only have one Grand Slam title, which would you choose?
That's a difficult question; anyone of the four would make me happy.
What has been the best piece of advice you have been given?
Always be positive and hard work pays off.
Away from the tennis court do you have any other interests?
Yes I do, I love animals that's why I have a lot of pets at home.
Meeting which celebrity would leave you starstruck?
I would love to meet Sheldon Cooper [actor Jim Parsons] from the Big Bang Theory.
If you had not become a tennis player what career path would you have liked to have followed?
I would always do something with animals.
Have you set yourself any goals for 2014?
Impove my ranking on the ITF Pro Circuit in the best possible way.