CLOCKWISE TOP LEFT: KAROLINA PLISKOVA; ANA KONJUH; ZARINA DIYAS; NICOLE GIBBS
PHOTOGRAPHS BY MICHAEL WILLIAMS
The US Open is in full swing, the last major tournament of the 2015 tennis season. While all eyes are on Serena Williams as she tries to complete the Grand Slam (victories in the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open), standing in her way are the “Rising Stars” of the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association). These are the young up and coming players — the future stars of women’s tennis — ready to take on Serena and everybody else.
We had the chance to meet and photograph four of these “Rising Stars” last week at the Connecticut Open: Nicole Gibbs, Ana Konjuh, Karolina Pliskova, and Zarina Diyas. Ever wonder what a professional tennis player eats before a match? How she gets pumped up to play? Who she’d love to see in the stands? What songs motivate her? What she does when she’s not playing tennis? We played 15 Questions with each player, and found out some fun facts!
CZECH REPUBLIC ~ WORLD RANKING #7
SPONSORED BY LI-NING APPAREL & BABOLAT RACQUETS
1. What is your favorite tournament and why? My favourite tournament is Melbourne. I always love to come back there. I love the city and have great memories there. 2. What is your most memorable win and why? Well, I have few of them and every single one is special, but it is always the final of the tournament where I won in my four titles. The special one was probably winning the title at home. 3. What is your favorite thing about playing at the US Open? It’s just the great atmosphere here. A lot of fans coming to cheer and also the city. It’s just great to be here. 4. What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not playing tennis? I love shopping, obviously, like every girl… haha. I also like food, so some good dinners in cities, or watching movies on my computer. 5. How do you get pumped up for a match? I’m always doing my warm up before matches and listening to music. And my coach is also motivating me. 6. How do you relax after a match? I always have some stretching or massage. Then going back to the hotel and rest, and good dinner later. 7. What other sports do you play? I don’t play any other sport, but because of my height I would probably choose basketball. 8. Favorite kind of music? 5 songs on your iPod now? It depends on the mood that day, but my favorite 5 song are: Phototograph by Ed Sheeran, My Kind of Love by Emeli Sande, Phenomenal by Eminem, Dear Future Husband by Meaghan Trainor, Fast Car by Tracy Chapman.
9. Is there a song you to listen before a match? I change the songs always but before a match, always faster songs. 10. If you could invite anyone to come watch you play, who would it be? I would invite Channing Tatum 11. What do you eat before a match? Before a match, I usually eat pasta… something light. 12. Favorite junk food? Cheeseburger 13. Favorite healthy food? Salads, Sushi 14. Favorite fashion designers? Dior, Chanel 15. Favorite athlete? Usain Bolt
KAZAKHSTAN ~ WORLD RANKING #34
SPONSORED BY SRIXON CLOTHING & RACQUETS
1. What is your favorite tournament and why? Wimbledon, because I like to play on the grass. The atmosphere, the tradition, everyone plays in white so it’s nice. And I play good there. 2. What is your most memorable win and why? I think it was last year at Wimbledon, when I beat Zvonareva in the third round. It was a tough three-set match. She was a finalist and number two in the world so that was a big thing for me. 3. What is your favorite thing about playing at the US Open? The fans here so into it. There’s so many people watching and cheering. I also like to stay in the city in Manhattan. 4. What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not playing tennis? I like to go out with friends, see a movie or read a book. 5. How do you get pumped up for a match? I’m always excited for each match but during the match I get very emotional. 6. How do you relax after a match? I do some cool-downs, like stretching and massages, then eat dinner and go to sleep early. 7. What other sports do you play? Just tennis. 8. Favorite kind of music? 5 songs on your iPod now? Beyonce – Flawless, John Legend – All of Me, Sam Smith – Like I Can and Stay with Me, Drake 9. Favorite TV show? My favorite show is Game of Thrones. I used to watch Gossip Girl. 10. Favorite Movie? My favorite movie is What Dreams May Come with Robin Williams.
11. Celebrity Crush? Bradley Cooper 12. If you could invite anyone to come watch you play, who would it be? This famous boxer from Kazakhstan, Gennady Golovkin. He’s really famous here in the U.S. 13. What do you eat before a match or on match day? I don’t eat so much before a match. Maybe a little bit of pasta. 14. Favorite junk food? Burgers 15. Favorite healthy food? Oatmeal
USA – WORLD RANKING #117
SPONSORED BY NEW BALANCE APPAREL & WILSON RACQUETS
1. What is your favorite tournament and why? The US Open is definitely my favorite tournament on the tour. New York is an incredible place to play and nothing beats playing at a slam in your home country! The Stanford WTA is a very close second, however, since I played college tennis there for 3 years and have so many amazing memories from being on that campus! 2. What is your most memorable win and why? My favorite memorable win was beating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, at the time ranked 23, in the second round of the 2014 US Open. It was my highest ranked win at that time (and still is), and it was my first time reaching 3R of a slam! 3. What is your favorite thing about playing at the US Open? Playing in front of a pro-USA crowd. Having crowd support is so inspiring and makes for a motivating atmosphere to compete in. 4. What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not playing tennis? I love to surf! When I’m not on a tennis court, I’m at home in LA on the beach or trying to catch some waves 🙂 5. How do you get pumped up for a match? I like to listen to music right before I go on court. Hearing some of my favorite beats brings me to the present moment and de-stresses me before heading out to court. 6. How do you relax after a match? After a match, I usually like to stretch and take an ice bath to help my muscles recover. After that’s done, I usually try to get a massage and then relax in front of some Netflix at the end of the day.
7. What other sports do you play? I used to play everything under the sun: soccer, softball, even ice skating, you name it! Now I’m pretty much a tennis specialist with the occasional surf sesh. 8. Favorite kind of music? I’m obsessed with Maroon 5 –especially their older stuff. Their album Songs About Jane is my all time favorite. Recently, I’m more of a pop music girl. I’ll listen to whatever is on the Top 40 hits in the US list on Spotify. 9. Is there a song you listen to before a match? Lose Yourself or Til I Collapse by Eminem, if I’m really looking to get pumped up. 10. Celebrity Crush? Adam Levine (lead singer of Maroon 5), Leonardo DiCaprio (circa 1997, Titanic) 11. If you could invite anyone to come watch you play, who would it be? Lebron James–I grew up in Cleveland, OH, so he’s a hero of mine!! 12. What do you eat before a match or on match day? I usually eat gluten free pasta with veggies before a match. Usually I opt for olive oil/salt and pepper as a sauce to keep it light and energizing. 13. Favorite junk food? If I’m having a serious cheat day, Taco Bell is my go to. Gross, I know. 14. Favorite healthy food? Açai bowls! Yum 🙂 15. Favorite male athlete? Lebron James. See above reasoning. Female athlete? Serena Williams. American. Dominant. Exciting to watch. What’s not to love?
CROATIA ~ WORLD RANKING #78
SPONSORED BY NIKE & BABOLAT RACQUETS
1. What is your favorite tournament and why? Wimbledon, because it’s a special slam. I think everyone who plays tennis wants to win it and I think if you win it, you’re the best in the world. 2. What is your most memorable win and why? I think it was against Vinci my first year in Oakland. I was just coming to the tour, she was #14 at the time. I played her and won and thought “Whoa, what just happened?” 3. What is your favorite thing about playing at the US Open? I won juniors so it’s obviously good to come back. I know the center really well and the courts. I think this Slam has the most energy, it’s show biz all around. There’s so many people and I just love the atmosphere. 4. What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not playing tennis? I like shopping and watching movies. I like to relax in bed and listen to music. 5. How do you get pumped up for a match? I have a talk with my coach and after that I have a 15-20 minute warm-up to get some adrenaline. After that I slap my coach in the stomach. When I won one of my first matches at age 12 I did that and he said this will be our routine. It’s been a routine for the seven years I’ve had him as my coach. 6. How do you relax after a match? I usually do running and stretching and after shower and sometimes a massage. Then I lay in bed. 7. What do you eat before a match? Plain Pasta 8. Favorite junk food? I love chocolate 9. Favorite healthy food? Salmon 10. What other sports do you play? I’m good with sports because I’m coordinated. I can play anything. 11. Favorite kind of music, song, band? Pop – What kids listen to these days: Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Beyonce. 12. Favorite songs on your iPod now? Wiz Khalifa – See You Again; Taylor Swift – 1989, The Script; Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud 13. Favorite TV show? The Big Bang Theory and Full House. 14. Favorite Movie? Anything Angelina Jolie 15. If you could invite anyone to come watch you play, who would it be? I think someone into sports so they’re not bored. I think Beyonce.
Photographed at the Connecticut Tennis Center and Yale Bowl during the Connecticut Open
Hair & Makeup: Allie Smith/Sarah Laird & Good Company