Following a lengthy layoff due to injury, Gioia Barbieri returned to the courts in late August in impressive fashion and claimed two titles in succession and we recently caught up with the returning 22-year-old Italian.
ITF Pro Circuit: Firstly, late August saw your return to competitive play after an absence of almost 3-months. Can you tell us the reason behind the absence and what it was like to be back out on court again?
Gioia Barbieri: At the beginning of May I received a fracture in a metatarsus of the left foot. It was mentally very hard to stop in a period full of tournaments and competitions. I had to skip the WTA [events] in Rome and the Mediterranean Games, where I had the honour to represent my country. When I came back on court I had a beautiful sensation, I've missed tennis a lot!
Can you tell us where were you born and maybe describe the area where you grew up?
I was born in Cervia, a small city near the sea. It's my favourite town, nowhere is like home!
So how did you get started in tennis?
I started when I was six, on the court near my house. After, I continued in the local tennis club and at the age of 17 I left home and I went to practice in another city.
Do any other members of your family play sport?
My father is an amateur but he loves tennis. Also my elder sister Maria Sole tried to become a professional tennis player and now she's a tennis coach.
What can you tell us about your current coach?
I've changed [coaches in the last] three months. I have to thank the previous coach for all his work over the past two years. Now I'm practicing in the San Marino Tennis Academy where I've found a great team. Giorgio Galimberti,ex-Italian Davis Cup player and Francesca Guardigli are my coaches. They are very positive and motivated people and in these last three fantastic weeks we did a great job!
Who were/are your tennis idols?
When I was young I loved Monica Seles, I even wanted to play two-handed forehand but my teacher disallowed me! Now I think Roger Federer is the best, he's simply a phenomenon.
What is your greatest tennis memory either as a player or as a fan?
I think I will always remember this incredible period. It's not easy to come back after an injury. But [to] come back and win two tournaments and 15 [singles] matches in a row, wow, it will be something I will never forget!
Who has been the toughest opponent you have faced on court in an ITF Pro Circuit match?
Up to the present I think the toughest opponent is myself. Sometimes I go on the court and I don't play how I can. Of course opponents matter but sometimes I first have to fight with my emotions and affections.
In your opinion, what would you say are the best and worst aspects of being a professional tennis player?
The best aspects of being a professional tennis player are that you travel around the world, meet variety of people and know different culture and languages. You also learn to count on yourself, you're often alone, and you need to grow up fast. Of course sometimes I miss my family but I think I'm very lucky to have this chance.
So far in your career, what has been the nicest ITF Pro Circuit venue that you played at?
I love playing in Italy, all the tournaments are very well organized and playing with the public by your side is always exciting.
Any on-court amusing incidents that you can share?
While playing a match the physio came in the court. Neither me nor my opponent have called him. He came in for the chair umpire!
What is the best experience that you had on the ITF Pro Circuit?
Winning a tournament is always the best experience that I can feel. The emotions and the adrenaline that I've felt in the finals are the reasons that I can play for. Every tournament won is an extraordinary experience; you reap the benefits of all your work and hard training.
Do you have any close friends in the game?
I am close friends with Anastasia Grymalska. We've known each other since we were young, we also have practiced together for a while. When she's on the court she's a great fighter and she's the only one I support passionately.
How do players relationships with each other at tournaments compare on the ITF Pro Circuit to other Circuits you may have played?
In the ITF Juniors relationships were completely different. Tournaments were combined, there was less competition and more fun!
How has playing on the ITF Pro Circuit helped you as a player?
Having a circuit of tournaments all over the world with an annual calendar helps me a lot. I can select between a large choice and I can programme in time my tennis activity.
Would you recommend that juniors go on to play the ITF Pro Circuit?
I started playing the Pro Circuit while I was still a junior and it was a good experience. You can face players older than you, with more experience and matches played, and you enter totally into the professionalism.
What aspect of another player’s game do you most envy?
I envy [those] who have a lot of self-control, who are able to not show their emotions to others.
If you could only have one Grand Slam title, which would you choose?
Wimbledon, but if it will be another one I won't be upset!
What has been the best piece of advice you have been given?
Believe it, you are strong!
Away from the tennis court do you have any other interests?
I like reading, visits to other countries (not as tennis player!), going out to the disco, scuba diving and all the marine's activity, I love the sea!!
Do you have a favourite holiday destination?
I'm in love with the Maldives, they are paradise on earth.
If you had not become a tennis player what career path would you have liked to have followed?
I would have liked to work in my dad's enterprise, he's an estate agent, or I would have liked to go to a University abroad.
Had you set yourself any goals for 2013?
With the injury my goals are changed but my hope is to get in the qualifying of the Australian Open.
Finally, tell us something about yourself that possibly not many people already know?
I suffer from dizziness but next month I will be parachuting!