LOS ANGELES, (Reuters) – Aged just 23, Germany’s Andrea Petkovic has already established herself as one of the most colourful, outgoing, unpredictable and introspective players on the WTA Tour.
If that all sounds a little confusing and perhaps contradictory, then consider the evidence.
Bosnian-born Petkovic, a lover of literature and alternative rock music who describes herself as thoughtful and happy, has patented her own jig, the ‘Petko Dance’, to celebrate on-court victories.
She is an erudite student of political systems who gained practical experience during a traineeship with the Hessian State Chancellery in Germany and is seriously considering a career in politics once her competitive tennis days are over.
An enthusiastic drummer and guitar player who is brutally honest about her own limited singing ability, Petkovic dreams of the day when she will own a record label and be able to help emerging musicians in her adopted country.
For the time being, though, the world number 23 is eager to rise into the top 10 in the rankings while fulfilling many of the targets set by her loyal German fans who, unfairly or not, often compare her to tennis great Steffi Graf.
“Steffi was always a big idol of mine and so just to be mentioned with her in the same sentence is such a huge honour,” Petkovic, smiling broadly, told Reuters in a recent interview.
“I never thought that such a great champion would ever possibly be compared to me. I know I am so far away from her.”
Petkovic conceded, however, that there were moments when the Graf comparisons in Germany became an unwelcome burden.
“In the beginning, I thought they (the fans) would realise that I am a totally different person,” she said. “Obviously they know I am not Steffi Graf but they do expect the same things from me.
“Whenever I have a good result, it’s always a comparison to Steffi. I am very ambitious and of course I want to do the best I can,” added the statuesque German, who claimed her first WTA singles title at Bad Gastein in 2009.
“But Steffi won that many grand slams and achieved so many other things that I don’t think I can ever match her, so those comparisons can be a big problem for me.”
In her own right, the 1.80-metre Petkovic has a great deal going for her in the tennis world.
She broke into the top 50 last year and reached the quarter-finals of a grand slam for the first time at the Australian Open in January, beating former champion Maria Sharapova along the way.
“This year, I want to break into the top 20 and my next goal is to be among the top 16 seeds, which makes life a little bit easier in the grand slams,” Petkovic said before letting out a full-throated laugh.
“Beyond that, I have my eyes on the top 10 but the most important thing is to keep improving your game because sometimes when you have a good run you start rushing for (ranking) points and more money and more points and then you start forgetting to improve.
“That’s what I want to avoid and that’s why I am trying to set my sights on improving my game more than the rankings.”