The pride of Blainville, QC, Aleksandra Wozniak has almost single-handedly put Canada back on the international tennis map one serve and backhand at a time. Fluent in six languages including her native Polish, Wozniak was three years old when her dad (and coach) first put a racket in her hand. The fourth-highest ranked Canadian singles player ever, Wozniak is a proud Quebecer who loves her Habs, regularly coming out to the Bell Centre to show her support for the team.
How big of a Canadiens fan are you, really?
Aleksandra Wozniak: I’m a pretty big fan. My dad is a huge fan so that’s where it all started for me. There’s nothing like being at the Bell Centre and feeling the energy of the crowd there.
Who is your favorite Habs player right now?
AW: I’d say Tomas Plekanec. I love his speed and the way he plays the game. He had me worried there for a bit. I’m glad he decided to stay in Montreal.
|Wozniak's ideal doubles partner: Tomas Plekanec |
Which Habs player would you want as your mixed doubles partner? Any of them seem like they’d be good on the court?
AW: I’d try my luck with Pleky. I play doubles with one of my best friends on the Tour, Lucie Safarova, and she’s from the Czech Republic, too. Besides, Czechs are always really good at tennis.
Ever thought of incorporating some red and blue into your gear?
AW: Good idea! For now my new Lacoste stuff is orange, which I also like. I do wear red when I practice and I have a bunch of Canadiens stuff I wear, too. Just not for my matches.
What was your proudest moment: reaching the fourth round of the French Open in 2009, or beating Serena Williams on your way to winning the 2008 Bank of the West Classic?
AW: That win over Serena in the semi-finals was pretty special and then to go on to win my first WTA event just capped off an amazing week for me. But that French Open run was pretty special, too.
After you beat Serena to win your first title, your hometown of Blainville changed its name to “Wozniakville” for 24 hours. What did you do with all that power for a day?
AW: (laughs) Yep, Wozniakville. It was quite a day, I even got the golden key to the city from the mayor. I just celebrated, but you’re right, I should’ve done a little more with my pull that day!
|Wozniak beat Serena Williams en route to winning the 2008 Bank of the West Classic, |
Exactly how terrifying is Serena in person, anyway?
AW: (laughs) You know what, off the court she’s really nice, but don’t get me wrong, she’s still super-intense. She’s so strong – not just physically but mentally – and that’s what makes her so intimidating.
Be honest, how annoying are players who grunt?
AW: You try to block it out, but it’s just certain players’ style. Some definitely take it a little too far, though.
Which Quebec delicacy do you miss most when you’re on the road: poutine, smoked meat, or anything else?
AW: Those are all great, but I’d have to say my friends and family. Being on the road can be tough sometimes. But if I had to choose, I’d say poutine. Nothing beats a real Quebec poutine! (laughs)
What’s been the most memorable encounter you’ve had with a fan to date?
AW: The big joke for me on tour is that fans often confuse me with Caroline Wozniacki since we’re both Polish and almost have the same name. So fans are always mixing us up. At least now my hair is darker, so that should make things easier for everyone. (laughs)
Having grown accustomed to a noisy hockey crowd, do you sometimes wish your matches weren’t so darn quiet?
AW: It would be cool if our crowds were allowed to let loose a little more, that’s for sure. It would give us all a boost, but tennis isn’t like that at all.
Who were your tennis idols as a kid?
AW: My favorite player was Monica Seles, she was such a competitor. I got to play doubles with her at an exhibition event recently and she signed her book for me. It was a real thrill to meet her.
|Wozniak and Caroline Wozniacki often get confused for each other on tour. |
Is Roger Federer almost sickeningly good? Does it make it even worse that he’s such a nice guy, too?
AW: He’s so shy and sweet; that’s probably why all the guys hate him. That and the fact they can’t beat him! (laughs) He’s a legend in the making. I love watching him play, but it would be nice if other guys had a chance to win, too, just to mix it up a little.
How well do players get along on the circuit? Is it a friendly atmosphere or is there more of a Mean Girls vibe?
AW: It’s totally Mean Girls! (laughs) It’s so weird how the guys are more normal and joke around with each other and with us it’s like a cat fight can break out at any moment. I’m sociable and talk to everyone, but the women’s tour is really all business.
Follow Aleksandra’s progress at aleksandrawozniak.com and track her world ranking at www.sonyericssonwtatour.com.
This article, written by Manny Almela, was published in CANADIENS magazine Vol. 24 No. 7.