At just 19 years of age, the Spaniard will forever remember 2012 as the year she burst onto the professional circuit, in a season where, among others, she has beaten the likes of Zvonareva and Pennetta. The WTA number 102 spoke to Madrid-Open.com about her experience in the big time so far.
You were born in Caracas but raised in Barcelona, where from a young age you started playing tennis with your siblings. Did you know from day one that tennis was your calling?
Tennis is my life. My siblings were already playing it by the time I was born and I immediately wanted to give it a go. From very early on I knew it was for me, most of all because it was what I liked to do. Nothing gave me more pleasure than taking to the courts and playing against kids my own age.
The Bruguera Academy, where you developed as a player, has been around since 1986. Talk us through a normal day there.
I’ve been through so much at the Bruguera Academy, as I started there so young. It’s always been amazing for me, I’ve always felt loved and I’ve evolved as a player there. The daily routine was tough, but a lot of fun, as you were constantly with lots of people doing something you liked.
In May 2009 you travelled to take part in your third ever tournament outside of Spain in Antalya, Turkey, where you reached the final. Were you nervous?
Yeah, I was a bit nervous as playing outside of Spain was still new for me. However, in the back of my mind I was calm because I was getting used to the circuit. I was getting used to the level that existed on the tour.
Does it annoy you that you are called by a different name every week? It’s always “Garbine” and not “Garbiñe” on the scoreboards and the WTA website.
It doesn’t bother me really. That’s the bad thing about having a “ñ” in your name, as it doesn’t exist anywhere else. People always call me “Garbin” and as much as I try to correct them I think it has stuck. Sometimes when I meet a non-Spanish speaker for the first time I introduce myself as “Garbin”. That’s not because I like it, it’s more to do with them not being able to pronounce it (laughs).
How did you feel when you received a wild-card to the Premier Mandatory tournament in Miami at just 18 years of age?
I felt very fortunate. I was also really content for having been given the chance to take part in such an important competition.
Considering it was your debut in a tournament of such high prestigious you didn’t seem nervous and even managed to reach the third round after sending Vera Zvonareva and Flavia Pennetta out. Tell us about the experience.
Finding myself on court against hugely talented players like that, and with such a different atmosphere to what I am used to, was one of the best experiences of my life. The most nerve-wrecking moment came in the first match. Once I got through the first round I felt far more comfortable and was able to play my game.
You came to the Mutua Madrid Open as one of the players to watch, but were sent out 6-2, 6-4 in your debut by Na Li, the eighth seed. Did you feel love from the Madrid crowd?
I was delighted to be playing in Madrid. When you play at home you feel much more support seeing the crowd cheering you on and applauding you, which pushes you on even more. Sadly that feeling didn’t last long as Na Li beat me in the first round. She’s a fantastic player, but now I’m itching for the Mutua Madrid Open to come around again so I can do better.
Another highlight of your year was reaching the third round of the Roland Garros qualifier. Two convincing wins followed by a meeting with Lara Arruabarrena. Is it complicated having to play against someone you know so well?
It was a tough match not only because it is such an important tournament but also because we have been friends for such a long time. We have known each other since we were small and we have crossed paths a lot since then. We have a great relationship.
Did you ever image that you would finish 2012 within touching distance of the world no. 100 spot?
To be honest, I didn’t. You never know how you are going to finish the year, not until the last tournament is over, but I always want to do the best that I can. Anything can happen over the course of a season.
What is your next objective?
My next goal is to get to the level needed to compete at the highest level, be strong and to give it my all.
And finally, are there any tournaments in particular you dream about playing in?
That’s difficult….well obviously winning a grand slam. But there are a lot of tournaments I love, for example Miami. Probably the US Open and the Australia Open as I’ve never played there.