Italy's Alice Matteucci is currently enjoying life at her career high WTA rankings of 585 and 492 in singles and doubles respectively. We had the chance to have a Q&A with the 18-year-old who made her Fed Cup debut in early February of this year.
ITF Pro Circuit: Can you tell us where were you born and maybe describe the area where you grew up?
Alice Matteucci: I was born in Pescara. A small city in Italy on the Adriatic coast.
Do any other members of your family play sport?
My dad used to play soccer when he was young and now he is trying to play tennis. My mum plays absolutely no sport.
So how did you get started in tennis?
I started playing when I was seven years old in the tennis club of my hometown Pescara. My dad knew my old coach so I got a chance to try playing. At the same time I was playing soccer as well but in the end tennis took my heart!
What can you tell us about your current coach?
Since the beginning of 2013 I'm practicing at the Italian Federation (FIT) in Tirrenia and I'm really happy because I feel really good with the group that follows me. Daniele Ceraudo is my tennis coach.
Who were/are your tennis idols?
My idols are Flavia Pennetta and Roger Federer. I chose Flavia because I love her personality on the court and of course because she is Italian.
Roger of course for his class inside and outside of the court. I think he is inimitable.
What is your greatest tennis memory either as a player or as a fan?
Well my greatest memory was absolutely to be part of the Italian Fed Cup Team last month in Cleveland. It was an amazing experience; it was the first time for me to be part of an important event like that. It was an honour. I was a bit stressed when I played the doubles. But those emotions make us grow up so much.
Another memory of course was to win the European Championship with the junior Italian team. My team was with Camilla Rosatello, Jasmine Paolini and captain Tathiana Garbin.
Who has been the toughest opponent you have faced on court in an ITF Pro Circuit match?
I think it was the Spaniard [Estrella] Cabeza Candela in the first round of Palermo WTA last year. But I won against Ons Jabeur ranked around 130 with WTA a few weeks ago. I think she was the best ranked girl I've ever beaten.
In your opinion, what would you say are the best and worst aspects of being a professional tennis player?
I think the best part of our life is the emotions that we feel every week in a different part of the world. To travel is the most amazing thing for me. Every week we have an opportunity to make a step forward of our life. To meet new people, visit different places and learn different cultures.
The worst aspects could be the stress of this life, stress and frustration are feelings that are enemies in this sport but we have to learn, to be part of them and live with them. Sometimes to lose it's a difficult part of our life. But I think the good ones are the ones that after a disappointment arrives to get up stronger than before for the next battle. We decide of our future, nobody else, we are alone on the court and even if we seem surrounded by a lot of people, we are more lonely than what we think.
So far in your career, what has been the nicest ITF Pro Circuit venue that you played at?
I think the nicest ITF Pro that I played until now was Santa Margherita di Pula [in Italy]. Because of the hotel and the hospitality which were really good. And I mean, we are in Italy!
Have there been any amusing on-court incidents that you can share?
One of the most amusing on-court incidents that I can remember was in an ITF Junior event in Argentina. I was playing doubles with my Italian friend Beatrice Lombardo. Well basically our friend was making the video of the point and we made an I-formation with me on the net. Beatrice served and right after she made a forehand drive volley and she hit me right on my head from behind!
It was so funny that we couldn't continue to play. It was so hard even to serve after and we were laughing so much that the referee came on court.
In September 2013, you won your first professional singles title, how did that feel and what can you recall of the match point moment?
Yeah in Pula I won my first pro singles title. I won a tough final against Claudia Giovine. In the third set I was winning 5-2 and then she came back since I won 75. I remember she made a backhand out and I just couldn't believe it! It was an amazing feeling because it was one of my first $10.000 [events] played and I was so happy to have had the chance to win it.
How have you found players relationships with each other to be at tournaments on the ITF Pro Circuit compared to other Circuits you may have played?
Well in Juniors I found an amazing relationship with other players because we were all young and playing all the Slams together, we built such a great relationship. In ITF Pro it's different because there are so many girls older than me and in the beginning I didn't know them so good, but I get closer with them now.
In Pro Circuit everything is more professional and actually there is less time to have fun comparing to juniors.
How has playing on the ITF Pro Circuit helped you as a player?
ITF Pro is helping me in this important and fundamental process which drives me from juniors to WTA, it's really important to play good at those tournaments to try to became a good player.
Would you recommend that juniors go on to play the ITF Pro Circuit?
Yes because we start from here with real tennis and WTA ranking. But I think Juniors too are an important part of the experience of a player. Personally I really learned a lot from Juniors. It helped me a lot.
What aspect of another player's game do you most envy?
I don't really envy someone's game but every time I look at someone's game I try to look at his quality to try to learn the best from him. Personally I think I can learn a lot watching the power of Serena or the volleys of Vinci but also the mentality of Azarenka.
Speaking of other female players (past & present), name the various players whose attributes you would take to create your own female super player?
Serve : Serena Williams
Return of Serve : Camila Giorgi
Forehand : Maria Sharapova
Backhand : Agneska Radwanska
Volley : Roberta Vinci
Positioning : Na Li
Speed on court : Camila Giorgi
Concentration : Serena Williams
Fighting spirit : Dominika Cibulkova
Entertainment : Jelena Jankovic
If you could only have one Grand Slam title, which would you choose?
What has been the best piece of advice you have been given?
One time a person told me that we are the only ones that control our destiny, tomorrow we wake up and we decide to be who we want to become by our actions. It's up to us, we just have to want it hardly without any limits because the only limits are the ones that we set on ourselves.
Away from the tennis court do you have any other interests?
I love playing sports in general, I love going out with friends and music and cinema are my passions. I also read about psychology and write.
Meeting which celebrity would leave you starstruck?
It would be of course my favourite actor Leonardo Di Caprio because I think he is an amazing actor and he interprets different characters with an extraordinary talent.
Do you have a favourite holiday destination?
I love Paris. It's my favourite city. I love being there to spend time with friends of my family. I love French and it's so romantic.
If you had not become a tennis player what career path would you have liked to have followed?
I would love to have followed a career in psychology or as a writer. I love psychology, I read about that and I also love to write stories.
Have you set yourself any goals for 2014?
I actually would like to finish the year in the Top 300, but I'll play every tournament trying to do my best, the ranking is the result of the progress that I'm making with my stuff from every point of view.
Finally, tell us something about yourself that possibly not many people already know?
I love chocolate more than everything else. It’s my secret weakness. Shh, don't tell this to the coach!!