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Carina Witthöft: 'New York is intense, Hamburg is home'

Up-and-coming women's singles player Carina Witthöft is looking to build on a successful 2017 at the last Grand Slam of the year, the US Open. She spoke to DW about New York, role models, and friends.

DW: You have now climbed to No. 65 in the women's rankings, you played very well in Melbourne and in Paris, and finally reached the third round at Wimbledon. What are your aspirations for the US Open?

Carina Witthöft: I don't really have any concrete aspirations. That would be the worst thing to do - to go into a tournament with high expectations. Last year I reached the third round, so my memories from here are quite good. I always look forward to the Grand Slams, which have a very special atmosphere. I am already looking forward to my first match, but it always depends on how you feel on the day.

What is so special about the US Open?

Every Grand Slam tournament has its own flair. Being located in New York, the US Open is very special. Here everything is noisy, intense and hectic - quite different from Wimbledon, for example, where it's all quite dignified. But I know it very well, since it is my fourth or fifth time here.

Some say things are too commercial there. Is the fact that Maria Sharapova was granted a wild card despite having been banned for doping a sign that business interests dominate things in New York.

I do not want to say much about that. It is not my decision to make and I cannot change it. That's up to the organizers of the tournament. I understand why Maria is a hot topic. But I prefer to focus on my game.

Maria on TV

In earlier reports about you, Sharapova was described as something of a role model for you. You already have the same outfitter. It has been reported that as a nine-year-old, you watched Sharapova's surprise win at Wimbledon and have been a fan since...

(Laughs) Well, maybe that was the way it was back then, but things have changed. I am my own person on the tour. What Maria Sharapova has achieved is great, but then she got caught in a doping test. However, the story is true: My sister and I watched the Wimbledon match between Sharapova and Daniela Hantuchova on television. My sister was [rooting] for Hantuchova and I was sure Sharapova would win the Wimbledon title. I was very impressed at the time and I thought she was great. But she is not a role model for me now.

Have you ever played against each other? She is seen as being rather unpopular?

No, we have not played against each other, I have not had any contact with her yet. Yes, that is her reputation, that she does her own thing. But that's okay, everyone has to do what's right for them.

Are you friendly with any of the other players on the tour? Some say there is no room for friendships at all ...

For me personally this is also difficult, because you see each other so rarely. And when you do, you are quite tense ahead of a match. I have my friends back home. They are not competitors and when they tell me something, I can depend upon the fact that they mean what they say. However, I am friendly with Mona Barthel, for example. Yesterday we went shopping together...

Carina Witthoeft with coach Jacek Szygowski

Carina Witthöft credits coach Jacek Szygowski as being a significant factor in the recent development of her game

Your progress on the court has been has been remarkable this year. The outgoing Fed Cup boss Barbara Rittner is full of praise, then there is your coach, Jacek Szygowki, and as a tennis coach herself, your mother has certainly been a factor. How would you describe the impact of these three people on your game?

Without my team and the people around me, I would not be where I am now. My mother is the biggest influence. Although she is no longer at the tournaments, she still keeps a close eye on things from home (the family runs a tennis academy in Hamburg). WithJacek I have a very good coach, with whom I feel very comfortable and am also developing further. And Barbara? She has been a big influence for many years, someone I can always turn to for advice and who has helped me a lot. Now in New York German tennis federation (DTB) coach Dirk Dier is looking after me, as Jacek is on vacation.

Are you offended when it is written that you are a trendsetter on Instagram? Or are your public relations consultants advising you well, with a view to soon getting the letters CW instead of Sharapova's initials on tennis bags?

No, I'm not at all offended, that goes in one ear and comes out the other.

Where do you want to be in the WTA's rankings in one year's time?

I am not going to put a precise number on it, but I definitely plan to move upwards.

Hamburg native Carina Witthöft (22) is currently No. 65 in the Women's Tennis Association's (WTA) rankings. During the past winter season she won the German women's tennis championship. She is also a member of Germany's Fed Cup team. 

The interview was conducted by Marko Langer

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