Players talked about the enormous challenge of playing at altitude ahead of the WTA Finals in Guadalajara. By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Tuesday November 9, 2021
Playing at an altitude of about 5,100 feet, or 1,550 meters, means that the tennis will be more tricky than usual this week at the WTA Finals in Guadalajara. We asked the top players how they are finding the conditions, and what they are doing to make the adjustment.
“I have not experienced anything like this before, this altitude,” Garbiñe Muguruza said in her pre-tournament press confererence on Tuesday via Zoom. “I've definitely played well in Mexico in other conditions.”
The Spaniard, who will open her tournament against Karolina Pliskova on Wednesday, says that every day she spends practicing on site, things get a bit better for her.
“Just struggling to get used to conditions because I've never experienced anything like that, like what I said before,” she said. “But looking forward, every day getting a little bit better. Hopefully tomorrow I can get the best version of myself there.”
🇨🇿 @KaPliskova: 5th-straight @WTAFinals showing 🤝
🇬🇷 @mariasakkari: 1st Greek woman in Top 10 🏺 pic.twitter.com/2soUKKQxSt
— wta (@WTA) November 9, 2021
Maria Sakkari, who will make her debut as the first Greek to every play the WTA Finals, says it might be necessary to win ugly this week in Guadalajara.
“I think we all knew we have to come quite early here because of the conditions,” she said. “I mean, we knew that there is 1,500 meters altitude here. We knew we had to adjust.
“I personally know I might not play my best tennis but I have to accept it because sometimes it will feel weird. Sometimes you'll make mistakes that you wouldn't make in sea level tournament. It's just whoever accepts the most mistakes, whoever accepts playing ugly tennis this week – 'ugly', you know what I mean – will give herself a better chance on winning the tournament.”
Iga Swiatek on her preparation: “We were practicing in Phoenix, in the mountains, because Bethanie @matteksands invited us. She provided some good clubs.
“Good tennis clubs, I mean. Don't get me wrong, I am not partying that hard.”#AKRONWTAFinals pic.twitter.com/Zfuizcs3gy
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) November 9, 2021
Poland’s Iga Swiatek, also making her debut as the youngest player in the singles field at 20, says she spent time in Arizona after Indian Wells, practicing at altitude with Bethanie Mattek-Sands. She says the heavier, pressurized balls being used at the tournament are also tricky to play with.
“For me it's like everything, with the altitude and the balls,” she said. “I think the conditions are okay. But I would say if we would play here with normal balls, they would, like, fly like crazy, so I'm pretty happy that the tournament provided us with the different ones so we can actually play.”
Karolina Pliskova, who has reached the semifinals at the WTA Finals three times, says that playing at altitude is also tough on the lungs.
“Of course you feel a bit heavier breathing,” she said. “That's something what you can get used to and what actually we are used to because we've been running a lot.”
The 29-year-old, who is the oldest singles competitor at Guadalajara this year, says that the courts are slow and the balls are bouncing high. Like Sakkari, Pliskova is ready to accept the fact that perfect tennis may be out of the question at this year’s WTA Finals.
“A combination, of course, of the balls, the conditions and the court because I think the courts are quite, like, slower,” she said. “The balls are bouncing quite high. That's been something what I was struggling a bit this week.” Of course, like, I had enough days. It's not perfect at all, but let's see. Doesn't have to be perfect unless I win, so let's see how the matches will go.