We caught up with Ana Konjuh at the European Summer Cups finals in Lleida last weekend. Still aged just 15, the Croatian has had a breakout season, winning two Junior Grand Slam titles, reaching the world #1 spot, going unbeaten in Fed Cup singles action and winning her first professional title. This is what the former European Junior Champion had to say about it all…
What’s next on your schedule after the Summer Cups?
I’m playing a $25,000 ITF Pro Circuit event in Seville next week, and then I’ll go home for a few days. It’s been a busy few weeks with lots of travelling because after the US Open I went back to Croatia to see the Davis Cup tie.
You’ve had a phenomenally successful year. Has there been anything that you feel you could done even better?
I don’t think so, I am very happy with my year. Winning two Grand Slams and reaching two other Slam semi-finals were good results, plus I did well at my first professional events, so I am satisfied with that.
You won both of the junior Slams that are played on hard courts. Would you say that’s your best surface?
Well…in juniors I’ve had great results on hard courts, but so far in professional tennis I had better results on clay, so I suppose I like both the same. I really like grass too; it’s very different to the other surfaces. Wimbledon was definitely my favourite Slam.
It must have felt great to see a compatriot win the boys’ event in New York when you won the girls’?
I was so happy for Borna [Coric, boys’ champion]; he really wanted that win and worked hard for it. It was a great day for Croatia because it had never happened before that two of our players won the same junior Slam, so we were both very happy that we managed to do it. Hopefully we’ll have some good results in the future too!
Croatian tennis seems to have a bright future…
Yes, there’s also Donna Vekic, who’s just a little older than me and she’s already Top 80. She’s really good and we have a very good Fed Cup team so hopefully we can do well there.
Where are you normally based when you’re not on the road?
In Croatia I live in Zagreb; I’ve been there for four years now. I train at the National Tennis Centre, and have an apartment there. My parents take turns to come and stay for a week at a time then I travel to tournaments. My family is very supportive. I’m originally from Dubrovnik and I do miss it a bit; all my sisters are there and I don’t get to see them a lot, so it’s great when I get a chance to go on holiday.
You’re still only 15. In theory you could continue playing juniors for another two years…
But I won’t…it’s time to move on. I really wanted to finish my junior career by winning the title at the US Open; that was my goal when I went to New York, and it’s what I did. I was struggling in the first round and I thought “Oh no! Imagine if I lose in the first round!” but then I managed to get through and played better and better with each round.
So it’s all change next year…
Yes, I will end the year by playing some $25,000 and $50,000 events and then next season I’ll start with the Australian Open because I have a wild card for the qualies.
There will be age restrictions though?
Yes, at the moment I can play like ten tournaments per year, then 14 or 16. You have to watch carefully your total number of events so it’s a bit difficult because when you play good you want to carry on playing.
Is doubles a priority for you?
Well, I feel like doubles helps to improve certain parts of my game, and it helps me to understand the game better. I’m not playing a lot of doubles, but I think it’s important to do so when you can.
What are your short term goals?
For the end of this year I would like to break into the Top 200 and then next year my only goal would be to play my best tennis and be happy. Improving is more important than the results; they will come.
Which professional tournament are you most looking forward to playing?
Wimbledon! I really love how everything is so different and unique there. I really hope that I’ll be able to get into the main draw and to play some top players.