Serve’s Up! Courts are still in session and 18-year-old rising tennis star, Vania King, secured her highest Sony Ericsson WTA women’s tennis doubles ranking at no. 23 (previously 27) from her (and Kudryavtseva’s) doubles title win at the Sunfeast Open in Kolkata, India. Serve’s Up! Courts are still in session and 18-year-old rising tennis star, Vania King, secured her highest Sony Ericsson WTA women’s tennis doubles ranking at no. 23 (previously 27) from her (and Kudryavtseva’s) doubles title win at the Sunfeast Open in Kolkata, India. Vania’s currently at the Guangzhou International Women’s Open in China and will then head to Tokyo and Bangkok to defend three titles from 2006, her first WTA singles title at the PTT Bangkok Open and then King’s WTA doubles titles at the AIG Japan Open and Bangkok Open. It’s hard to believe Vania King turned pro July 2006.
Aside from being a huge tennis fan, when you think about successful Asian Americans in tennis, there’s only one (for me), and that’s Michael Chang. Therefore, not to place any more pressure or expectations on Ms. King, but we have high hopes for her. Obviously Vania has game and works tremendously hard mentally and physically, however her professionalism, maturity and seemingly grounded nature not only as a player, but also as a person are quite impressive for being just eighteen.
Read on to find out if Vania has been selected to the U.S. Olympic tennis team for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and what makes her smile… .
ASIANCE: For our Asiance readers getting to know you, how would you describe your type/style of tennis play?
Vania: I would like to say I am an all-courter, but I am probably an aggressive baseliner that can be an all-courter. Since I am small (5’5″), I can’t exactly blast serves and charge the net, but am always looking for the opportunity to come in.
But it’s true, I have had good results in Asia–maybe it’s because my roots are there and subconsciously I feel more relaxed there.
ASIANCE: You have been on the pro circuit just over a year, have you fully adjusted to the travel and tournament schedule?
Vania: I think this year I learned just as much as I did last year. I feel like I have really integrated into the Tour, but am always learning! I am still one of the least experienced players on the Tour–about traveling, strategy, dealing with the media. The tournament schedule is quite tough because you are on the road constantly–my longest time home so far has been a week and a half! The tournament calendar has been revised for next year (for all the players) to make the season shorter, so that is a relief for the players. Also, I am still learning about how much I can play at a time, and what I need to do to get into my best form.
ASIANCE: How have you grown professionally over the last year. For example, how have you prepared yourself physically and mentally? Have you become more confident?
Vania: As I said, I am still learning how to maximize my tennis ability, but I have definitely made strides in my game and my confidence. I now know how to deal with things that may have been a roadblock for me a year ago because now I have had experience with them whether they are physical, environmental, or mental. For me, confidence in tennis has a few factors–winning (of course), improving, and setting achievable goals and working towards them productively. Because I realize now why I have confidence, it is not so much about winning but more about realizing what I have to do (or try to do) whenever I step out on the court.
I am still working towards that full all-court game, and keeping my mind focused on my goals. But I believe that if you do everything with good intentions and try your best, then everything will turn out fine.
Here is a great interview with Vania King. You can get a feel for how impressive she is in person.
ASIANCE: Have you always been coached by your father David King? As you become older how is it transitioning from the father/daughter and coach/player dynamic?
Vania: My father has coached me all my life, except for a period of one and a half years from Wimbledon of last year. Because he is my dad, it is always tough for me to try to listen to him as a coach, and for him, to treat me as a player. I need to make, or be a part of, the decisions about my tennis, especially as I get older and make major decisions in my life. There are many times when he needs to separate being a dad and being a coach. Also, being with one person 24/7 for months at a time… that can wear out on anyone’s nerves! But we always work things out. It comes down to respect–I respect him being my coach, and he respects that I am a tennis player, and at the end of the day, we are family.
ASIANCE: You play both singles & doubles, are you able to focus on both equally. Do you feel playing both somewhat hinders you from progressing in singles or doubles?
Vania:I don’t think doubles hurts my singles, in fact, I think that it helps my singles, especially since I want to get used to coming in and working at the net. Doubles is also a stress-reliever for me, because it is quite different from singles, and you are playing with someone else, so it isn’t all about you anymore. I wouldn’t think of cutting back on singles or doubles unless I was playing in the finals of every tournament, and getting exhausted from playing so many matches.
ASIANCE: You are heading into the Asia tournament circuit (the Sunfeast Open in Kolkata, India; the Guangzhou International Open in China; the AIG Japan Open in Tokyo; and the PTT Bangkok Open in Thailand), it seems you do quite well there for singles and doubles. Are you nervous?
Vania: Of course I am nervous, but I guess the difference would be the degree of nervousness. I have learned to keep my mind in control and focus on the things I need to focus on. If you think too much about winning or results, then you can’t play the way you want to play–I try to relax and clear my mind as much as possible because there are always a million things going on in there!
ASIANCE: Any reason why you’ve done particularly well on the Asia circuit (this year you were also a doubles finalist at the Tokyo Pan Pacific)?
Vania:Actually, I didn’t even realize that I did well in the Asian tournaments–I think I’ve done pretty well outside of Asia as well! But it’s true, I have had good results in Asia–maybe it’s because my roots are there and subconsciously I feel more relaxed there. Also, I’ve had great partners!
Especially because of my Asian background and because the Olympics are being held in Beijing. But really, who gets the chance to say that they played in the Olympics?
ASIANCE: What’s your favorite Asian country so far?
Vania:Well I always like going to China, since my parents are from Taiwan–but one of my favorite cities in the world is Tokyo. I just love how it’s so different than where I am from, and I really like cleanliness in cities (I can be pretty messy, but I like the places I go to be really clean!!)
ASIANCE: What’s your favorite tournament and why?
Vania: I usually like places rather than tournaments, and in that sense, I really like San Francisco, Quebec City, and Tokyo. In regards to tournaments, I do like the Quebec tournament, maybe the Pacific Life (Indian Wells, CA) because it is really relaxed there, and the Pilot Pen tournament (New Haven, CT), because everyone really tries to do their best for the players.
ASIANCE: You were accepted to Stanford on a 4 year scholarship just before turning pro, what was the deciding factor for you to proceed down the path of playing professional tennis?
Vania: It was a very tough decision for me, but I knew that college would always be there for me. If I did go to college, then I would not go for the tennis aspect of it, which is what I think I am missing the most. Ever since I was little, I had dreamed of becoming a top professional tennis player! I believe I have a great opportunity in tennis, and though it sometimes is hard, I am learning so much about myself as a person, and growing up pretty quickly! Though there may have been times I was unsure I made the right decision, I do not regret following this path.
ASIANCE: The U.S. Olympic women’s tennis team has not been finalized and you’ve been mentioned as a potential team member in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Is this something you’re pushing for?
Vania: Yes! Especially because of my Asian background and because the Olympics are being held in Beijing. But really, who gets the chance to say that they played in the Olympics? It is such an honor to be chosen–to be there with all the other athletes in the world not just playing to win, but really living the spirit of the Olympics–the teamwork, camaraderie, the global unity.
ASIANCE: What are your goals for 2008?
Vania:I only have one real addressable goal, and that is to compete in the Olympics, but I have some shorter term goals that involve my improvement within my tennis game.
ASIANCE: Are you dating anyone now?
Vania: I am currently single. I actually have never had a long-term relationship due to the fact that I travel so much and when I am home–really just want to be at home resting. But I am not opposed to the idea if the right guy comes along!!
ASIANCE: What are your pet peeves? What’s your favorite snack and beverage? What makes you smile?
Vania: Hmm…pet peeves…well I think I am a pretty blunt person (which is a good and bad thing) and I don’t like people exaggerating or shading the truth. A simple peeve would be people eating loudly, but I think that’s normal for everyone. It really just depends on my mood–If I am angry, everything annoys me! My favorite snacks would be turnip cake (fried), these Asian ball cakes that melt in your mouth (Mmmm…), and maybe dried mangoes. I really like salty foods, but when I have snacks on the road, I buy something salty and something sweet so I can keep switching off. I don’t really have a favorite beverage, but right now I think soybean milk. Truthfully, I find pleasure in the simple things, like going to the beach and listening to music. I guess I smile doing the things that I like–singing, reading, taking baths…
ASIANCE: When you’re on the move, what are the Vania King must haves that keep you going?
Vania: My music, definitely, and my computer. I don’t know if I could live without music, and my computer is the means to play it. Also, I can go online and play PC games on it!
ASIANCE: For those young aspiring Asian American female tennis players out there, what advice do you have for them to take it to the next level?
Vania: I would say to not put too much pressure on yourself. Tennis is tough when you make it your life. If you are able to go to school, then I would strongly recommend staying in school. I was in school until the10th grade when I was told that if I missed a certain number of days, I would fail–so I couldn’t stay. Have fun, and do other things–you can make tennis your #1 priority, but balance your life with other activities. It’s necessary to have a good support team–someone or people who really care about you as a person, then for your abilities in tennis. And keep your choices open until you are ready to decide what you want to do!! Good luck!!
For more details on Vania King, please visit www.vaniaking.net