Tennis legend and Hengqin Life WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai ambassador Stefanie Graf has backed Serena Williams to make a successful comeback following the birth of her first child. Thirty-six-year-old Williams, who won this year’s Australian Open while pregnant, announced the birth of her baby girl Alexis Olympia on September 1.
Graf was speaking to fans and media ahead of Sunday’s WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai singles final, where she will be part of the trophy presentation party.
Germany’s Julia Goerges takes on American CoCo Vandeweghe in the singles final at the season-ending showcase. The singles final is scheduled not before 4pm local time.
Graf also spoke about her fellow German Goerges, gave her thoughts on how women’s tennis has changed, the potential of Zhuhai semi-finalist Ashleigh Barty, the retirement of Martina Hingis and her role as a tournament ambassador here in Zhuhai.
STEFANIE GRAF QUOTES:
On whether Serena Williams can break Margaret Court’s record of Grand Slam singles titles when/if she returns after having a baby:
“Absolutely, yes. I think a lot of it is determined on her drive and if that is what she wants to do. It sounds from what I hear that she is looking to come back to tennis and, you know, everything that she has shown over her career just makes you believe that if she has that in her sights then she will go after it and achieve it.”
Given that her husband Andre Agassi is coaching Novak Djokovic, does she have plans to follow him into coaching?
“No I haven’t put too much thought into that. I think one parent being not at home with two kids at home is enough. Two parents gone, with two teenagers is a lot of trouble (smiles). No, I haven’t thought about it. Even with Andre, as committed as he is to working with Novak and helping him, he won’t do a full year schedule with being at all the tournaments; I think they will select a few. It’s not going to be a whole season. Our lives with our kids, as well as with our Foundation, are already pretty busy. Unfortunately that wouldn’t be something which right now, has room.”
On Julia Goerges’ form, her rise and her run to the Zhuhai final:
“I’ve been following her career for quite a bit and she’s had a tremendous year, she’s been going on, I think it’s eight or nine matches in a row now after winning Moscow, she’s been in numerous finals this year. You can see her with a new confidence back going for her shots and physically she’s having a strong year and being more prepared. As a fellow German, I’m hoping that she’s going to do well today.”
How has women’s tennis changes since her time?
“As with everything, I think as years go by you learn so much more about how to best prepare your body to do a sport is really intense. So I can see everybody being more careful about how to train, better educated. Out on the court, there are very similar basics. I just think everybody is just in better shape and just stronger out there.”
On Ashleigh Barty's development and potential:
“You know I did see her at the very beginning of her career. You know she came and, i think, surprised all the players with her style early on in her career. I don’t completely know exactly how she came back to playing cricket and then back to tennis but it is a pretty incredible story. Seeing her play so well, especially this year from where she’s started to where she’s ending, it’s a pretty incredible speed of how she’s finding herself back into the tennis tour. The Australians always have an interesting style of tennis and she’s one of them, she’s got great hands and a lot of potential and it’s great to see her back in the sport of tennis.”
On Martina Hingis, who retired last week:
“I’ve been absolutely amazed just watching her, from when she retired from singles. We actually played a couple of exhibitions and you know she played still so incredible. So seeing her go back to just playing doubles and mixed was fun. I missed her playing singles, I would have loved to have seen her play a little longer because of her really crafty style and her incredible hands but it was nice to see her still be on the Tour in doubles and mixed and achieve a lot of milestones in that. Again, she’s somebody who could have played even longer with the talent she has. It’s pretty incredible.”
On Zhuhai and the WTA Elite Trophy Zhuhai event:
“I was always looking for an opportunity to come to China and when I was asked a few years back to come to Zhuhai I took the opportunity very happily. I had a great visit here last year, with a lot of very memorable moments out on the bridge and I was curious to see if you could top that moment of the incredible view from the bridge. We did that yesterday morning with being 330m high* - it was a little windy up there! It’s a pleasure to be back and see this tournament grow.”
*(While playing tennis on the Zhuhai Center skyscraper on Saturday)
“This tournament has been going three years and you can see from the players that are attending the event the importance of it. It’s really established itself as an important stop of the year and you can also see a lot of other tournaments, Challengers and so on, in the area here. Hopefully that is something that will encourage new people and young kids to take up the sport and make this sport grow in popularity.”
“The reception of everybody has been tremendous. Everybody highlights how well organised this tournament is, how well attended it is, the quality from the courts to the surroundings. Seeing such support from players and organisers I can only hope that this is a tournament that will stay and maybe even have new ones added. So congratulations on such an amazing event.”