Ahead of her last tournament of the season, Lara Arruabarrena talked to Madrid-Open.com about her incredible debut year in the WTA circuit, in which she has even managed to win a title.
In a short space of time, Lara Arruabarrena (20 March 1992, Tolosa, Guipúzcoa, Spain) has turned into Spain’s latest female tennis sensation having previously just been a promising player. In February she was crowned champion in the WTA competition in Bogota at just 19 years of age, and since then she has broken into the top 100 players in the world. Her presence in the main draw of the Mutua Madrid Open and Roland Garros and her first ever victory in a grand slam at the US Open back in August are just some of the highlights from this unforgettable year that she looks back on with us in an exclusive interview with the Mutua Madrid Open official website.
Lara, you have enjoyed a magnificent debut season on the WTA circuit. Did you ever think you could achieve so much in 2012 or have you even surprised yourself?
My goal at the start of this season was to break into the top 100 by the end of the year, but I never expected to surpass that objective like I have. Now I am 77th with a tournament left to play. I thought I could make it to 100, but I never thought I would finish like I have, so I’m really satisfied.
One of the highlights of your year was surely winning the title Bogota back in February. How did it feel when you lifted the trophy?
I was a point away from being sent out of that tournament in the first round, because I was losing 5-2 in the third set. When you start a tournament like that you constantly think about how close you came to losing and play tighter as a result, that’s what happened to me anyway. I grew in confidence the further I got in the competition but I never thought I could win it. If you had said that to me on the first day, I wouldn’t have believed you, but I did keep growing in confidence and in the end I won it.
A few months later you received a wild card to play in the Mutua Madrid Open. How did that come about?
I knew it was going to be difficult, because there were a lot of players looking to do the same. I asked for a wild card the year before to take part in the qualifying round, and I was told that I’d have a chance of getting this year, which was made even more possible after Bogota. In the end I received the wild card which made me really happy. I was very exciting.
What was it like to play in a tournament as illustrious as the Mutua Madrid Open, on Spanish soil and with the public’s support behind you?
It’s always great to play in Spain. I was really upset when they decided to discontinue the tournament in Marbella because playing in front of your own countrymen is so exciting, and helps you a lot as a player. In Madrid I was given a wild card which made me really happy. The bad thing was that I had to face Agnieszka Radwanska in the first round, but I was just excited to be there, as well as to get the opportunity to play on blue clay.
After the Madrid Open you played in your first grad slam in Roland Garros, and then went on to win a match in the US Open. What’s it like to be in a grand slam?
Just to be there is incredible. I had already played in some grand slam qualifiers, but I finally got to compete in the main draw this year. I was extremely happy although in Roland Garros I had to play a difficult rival in Ana Ivanovic. It was an incredible experience because I was able to play on such an important court against such an important player. After that I perhaps expected less from the US Open, because I’m more of a clay court player. It surprised me that I advanced past the first round because I’m not that strong of a hard court player.
What mark would you give yourself for this year’s performance?
I’d give myself a high mark because I have managed to surpass all of the objectives I set out at the start of the season. I would never have imagined finishing the season as I have. I thought that with a lot of work I could reach my objective but I never thought I’d do this well. I’ve also grown a lot as a player, so I’d give myself a 8.5 or a 9.
What is the most distinguishing feature of your game?
I’m a fighter. Most girls struggle to move around the court. Nowadays women’s tennis is about powerful hitting, something that I’m not that strong at, so I have to run a lot. Therefore, I would say the defining characteristic of my game is that I run a lot, that I’m a fighter and that I defend well.
And what do you need to work on?
On my serve.
What are your main objectives for the rest if this season and for next year?
I have one tournament left to play this season, indoors in Luxembourg, and would like to play well in it and if possible, and win a match. I’m not going to it with any fixed goals though. Just play well and try to win matches. For next season I want to break into the top 40 in the rankings. I know that that is quite ambitious but I have already reached this year’s objective so if it doesn’t happen, so be it. However, if I do achieve it, it would be incredible.
Would you like to represent Spain in the Federation Cup?
I would love to. I have always really like the Federation Cup. Playing on teams and especially for Spain is something that appeals to me. I’d love to go. I have to prove myself to go but it’s not something that I can decide. I hope that one day the captain decides to bring me.