Andrea Petkovic writing success story
PARIS -- There was a time last year, after injuries and poor play had dropped her from the top 10 to No. 177 and tennis no longer was fun, that Andrea Petkovic considered other careers. Things were so bad, in fact, that she considered a job in politics.
And worse yet, journalism.
Yeah, journalism! Man, she must have really been hurting.
"I think the worst moment for me was not when I was injured, because when you are injured, you're full of hope,'' Petkovic said Wednesday. "I'm an optimistic person, so I figured everything would be good just as soon as I stepped back on court and everything will be fine and I will feel happy again and I will be satisfied with myself.
"That was not the case, because once I stepped back on court, the thing that made me unhappiest was the fact that I wasn't playing as well as I did. My footwork was off. My strokes were worse. My serve was awful. That was the worst moment for me, just not being the tennis player that I used to be. I just couldn't accept that in the beginning."
So Petkovic considered internships at newspapers -- she had blogged for ESPN.com in 2010 -- and with politicians. In the end, though, tennis held as firm a grip on her as she did on her racket.
That was a good decision. First, as any sports writer can tell you, the newspaper business is a beast in the social media age. More important, Petkovic is back.
She rolled by No. 10 Sara Errani 6-2, 6-2 on a damp, blustery day to advance to the French Open semifinals against fourth-seeded Simona Halep. It was the first time in four attempts that Petkovic got past the quarters in a Grand Slam, and when Errani's final shot dropped wide, Petkovic raised her arms and kissed her racket.
"I never kissed my racket before in my life,'' the No. 28 seed said. "I don't know what happened to me. I was just overwhelmed by emotion. I had no boy to kiss, so I kissed my racket, right?"
The women's tournament has been rocked by major upsets, leaving Halep as the highest-ranked player left after she beat former champ Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-2.
"I played against Petkovic one year ago at Nuremberg in the final," said Halep, who also beat Petkovic in September in Tokyo. "I beat her in two sets, but it's already one year. Maybe she improve more. I improve more, also. It will be a tough match, for sure. It's a little pressure because it's semifinal, but I feel good. I feel my game. I feel prepared for the next match."
But while some of the big names are gone, Petkovic is a great player to root for. She is one of the most entertaining and interesting athletes you could hope to come across. Which other athletes talk about Goethe, Nietzsche, Camus and David Foster Wallace in post-competition interviews? For that matter, who talks about Goethe and Nietzsche with a sense of humor? She speaks four languages, enjoys museums and dancing and produces wild "Petkorazzi" videos.
Her comeback also is a great story. She was one of the top players in the game in 2011, reaching the quarters at three Slams and becoming the first German in the top 10 since Steffi Graf in 1998.
Then the injuries hit. A bad lower back knocked her out for most of three months early in 2012 and a right knee injury at the end of 2012 sidelined her again. She fell to 177 in March of 2013 and considered dropping tennis.
"It wasn't because I had lost in second round against some player that was ranked 160. It wasn't about that. It was just I didn't like playing anymore. I hated it," Petkovic said. "I was putting so much pressure on myself to getting back where I was, and it wasn't fun anymore. I was just forcing. Everything was work and hard. You know, it wasn't why I started playing tennis."
Journalism? Politics? In the end, tennis held serve.
"My life and destiny still wants me to play tennis, because otherwise I feel like I would know more what I wanted in life afterwards, and right now the only thing that I care about is tennis," Petkovic said. "I do have a lot of interests besides tennis, but nothing really gets my passion so far. I think I'm at the place where I need to be right now."
Petkovic lost to Errani in the first round at Madrid last month and the Italian took a 2-0 lead in the first set here. But perhaps fatigued from a long doubles match Tuesday, Errani lost 12 of the next 14 games to lose the match. "I don't know why I was dead," she said.
Errani may have been dead Wednesday but Petkovic is very much alive. And how would the once-aspiring journalist write up her comeback and performance here?
"I really don't know, because I am in my shoes, as well," Petkovic said. "So I would try to keep it as low-key as possible, because I know that I get very excited about stuff. But then the pressure comes hand in hand with this excitement. [Because of the injuries] there now is a nail of doubt every time when I play well. I'm just so scared that it might slip away again. Because I was the happiest when I was in the top 10 and was one of the top players, and then it was just taken away from me.
"So now every time I have happy moments and nice wins, it immediately brings the doubt and the fear of that it might slip away again. So it's always a difficult thing for me being all the way positive again and just trusting that everything will be fine, because I learned it the other way."
Hey, stay positive. You're going to play in the semifinals of the French Open. Halep may be playing some of the best tennis around these days, but it could be worse. You could be on deadline when you play her.