Spotlight: Flavia Pennetta on her 2009 U.S. Open Run, Monica Seles and Angelina Jolie

Flavia Pennetta has been a force on the WTA Tour for over ten years, but she only broke through the top echelons of women’s tennis back in 2009 when she became Italy’s first top 10 singles player in history. I had a chance to chat with the bubbly, pleasant, and smiling Flavia during the Sony Ericsson Open as she shared insights about her unforgettable 2009 U.S. Open match against Vera Zvonareva, dancing, beach volleyball, Monica Seles and Angelina Jolie.

What is your most memorable moment on court?

U.S. Open against Vera Zvonareva in 2009. Was a really nice match. I won 6-0 in the third set with 7, or 6, match points.

Is that the one in which Vera was ripping the tape off her knees?


How was that experience in the moment?

It was intense. It was good for me because I won, but not for her. (Laughs)

What is the best part of being a tennis player?

To have the chance to travel and see different places and meet different people, so that when you stop playing, you have friends everywhere. (Laughs)

If you weren’t a tennis player, what would you be?

I always like different sports. Maybe I would play volleyball or horse (be an equestrian).

Do you like to cross-train with volleyball?

I love to play beach volleyball when I’m at the beach. (Laughs)

If you could play against any player in history, who would it be and why?

(Long pause) Maybe … I never played against Monica Seles. I met her because I was at the tour during the last two years she was playing. She was my idol when I was young, and I never played against her, so maybe against her.

She did that show, like “Dancing with the Stars.”

I didn’t see her! But they told me she was really good.

Would you ever want to do that?

Ooof! (Laughs) Maybe one single time, I can do that. But if it’s every Saturday like it is in Italy, would be tough. But one time? Would be fun.

If you are hosting a party, what three tennis players would you invite and why?

My friends. Gisela [Dulko] for sure! (Thinking) Gisela … Gisela …….. Gisela! Doubles partners are the best. Of course, Francesca. I like to spend time with different people, but most of the time I like to be with my friends because it would be the most beautiful party.

Do you have any superstitions on court?

No. Well, on court? (Pause) No. I’m not …. No. (Laughs)

If you could have dinner with any three people, who would it be and why?

Brad Pitt. And also Angelina [Jolie]. She’s nice, really nice. I like her a lot.

Did you meet her ever?

No, but I have one friend who is a friend of Angelina’s and she told me Angelina is a really nice person. I really like her when I watch her on TV because I think she is a really good actress, but I’ve never met her. So maybe when you meet someone … they maybe will disappoint. Most of the time it’s like this, because when you feel so much respect for someone, you just think ‘They are going to be perfect’ and then when you meet them, it’s not like this. So you get disappointed.

I think I would also like to eat with Valentino Rossi because he is one of my best friends. So, I love to spend with him. And another one? Wait, I said three.

Well, and my mom. (Laughs)

Yanina Wickmayer on Serena Williams, Skiing, and Dancing

Current world #33 Yanina Wickmayer broke through the ranks at the 2009 U.S. Open escalating herself into the tennis spotlight. The Belgian tends to shy away from press but I had a chance to chat a few interesting topics with her at the Sony Ericsson Open this week. Did you know she has never met Serena Williams? Hard to believe, but it’s true!

What is your most memorable moment on court?

Probably my semifinals run in the U.S. Open and some Fed Cup moments.

If you weren’t a tennis player, what would you be?

I chose between tennis and skiing, so maybe a skier.

If you could play against any player in history, who would it be and why?

I’ve actually never played Serena [Williams]. I look up to her a lot and have a lot of respect for her. She’s one of the biggest champions in women’s tennis, so maybe her.

Are you and Serena friends off-court?

No, never talked to her. (Laughs)

If you’re hosting a party, what three tennis players do you invite?

Probably [Gael] Monfils because of his dancing skills. And then the girls is tough to choose – I don’t want to be picky on them. (Laughs) But ‘Who would I invite?’ Hmm, Sabine Lisicki and Dominika [Cibulkova]. She’s a fun girl also.

What two things can’t you live without?

My dad. And …. I guess, happiness! (Laughs)

Gael Monfils: The Entertainer

Gael Monfils elicits mixed emotions from tennis fans.

Some find his flair and flashy play exciting. Others find it grating and unnecessary. And there are many who worry that his acrobatic style of play will result in serious injuries.

But regardless of what pundits and fans think of him, Monfils continues to do what he does best: to entertain.

Gael Monfils hits a forehand during practice at the 2011 Legg Mason Tennis Classic

In August, the Frenchman brought his high-flying act to the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, D.C., and he did not disappoint. With overhead smashes that would make Pete Sampras proud and diving shots few on the ATP Tour would dare attempt, Monfils rolled to the finals where he was stopped by tour veteran Radek Stepanek.

In the semifinals against John Isner, Monfils held a match point that was followed by an Isner service ace. Unsure of the call, Monfils challenged but the review system malfunctioned and the call stood. Monfils shrugged it off and the two exchanged a fist bump during the following changeover.

After losing his doubles match at the U.S. Open to end his Grand Slam season, Monfils did not respond by hanging his head and walking off the court, but by throwing anything he could find to the crowd, including his shirt, a box of tissues and an umbrella.

Also known for his dancing abilities, the 6’4’’ Monfils showed off some of his moves during offseason exhibitions, including shuffling to “Party Rock” in Argentina this past weekend.

The entertainer understands that in addition to winning matches, giving fans a good show is an essential part of the job.

While the 2011 season marked a career high ranking for Monfils – he reached world No. 7 in July – his Grand Slam struggles continued. He lost in the third round or earlier in all the majors except for the French Open, where he reached the quarterfinals.

Currently sitting at world No. 16, Monfils has some work ahead in 2012 to climb back into the top 10 and potentially further. But regardless of what lies ahead for Monfils, one can be sure that he will continue to entertain.

And in the chance Monfils wins at a Grand Slam, the court may turn into his own dance floor.