Aug. 29, 2010
An interview with: Irina Falconi
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. I guess first of all I wanted to ask when you just turned pro in May, so what has that transmission been like for you so far?
Irina Falconi: Um I think the biggest transition has just been the amount of time I put into tennis now. Before it was just two years of balancing out tennis and academics, and now I just have so much more time to really focus on my tennis, getting fitter, getting stronger, getting faster. Yeah, it gives me a lot more time to focus on that 100%.
Q. What did you find most difficult about the transition to the pro game and the type of players you’re facing now?
Irina Falconi: Um, I wouldn’t say it’s a very large there’s not a very significant gap between college players and, you know, pro level.
I think a lot of these girls are just out there on the grind every single day. That’s the difference between college players and pro players: they’re doing it every day, going tournament to tournament every week, and they’re not they don’t have schooling to do, a lot of them.
So, yeah, that’s probably the biggest difference.
Q. But as far as just strength, fitness, you know, skill level, you don’t really see a great degree of difference?
Irina Falconi: You know, I honestly don’t think so. I was in college for two years, and I think that just the transition was not very difficult for me just because I knew that, you know, a lot of these players can hit the ball hard.
Yeah, I don’t really think there’s a huge transition. I think the biggest difference of it would probably be just the amount of experience on the pro tour. That’s probably it.
Q. So it sounds like you have a lot of confidence about your ability to handle pro tennis and start to make an impact in climbing the rankings pretty soon.
Irina Falconi: I’ve been playing pro circuit events since I was 16, and then I decided to go to school just a few months before I actually went to Georgia Tech. So I think just the fact that I’ve been around it quite a bit just makes me feel a little more at home, little more comfortable with the players and the amount of strength that they present.
Q. Can you tell me a little bit about your background around Inwood Park and growing up in the Bronx? Steve said that there’s a group of guys coming out here to see you. Can you explain what that’s all about?
Irina Falconi: Um, Inwood Park is actually in Manhattan, closer to Manhattan. I wouldn’t say the Bronx exactly. But yeah, I think it was quite something. I pretty much grew up with these guys, and would go out every single day with my dad after he was done with work. We’d go out there and we would just play sets and just play points all the time.
I was four years old, and, you know, I played until I was around 14 with those guys, so I pretty much grew up with them. It was quite an experience. I mean, I never was accustomed to orthodox tennis. I didn’t really learn it that way, so just having that variety and having that type of play, I just really I identified with it and I grew with it, so…
Q. How do you think that affected and molded your game? What would you say is unorthodox, I guess?
Irina Falconi: You know, the variety that I present. I really feel that I’m not the traditional bang banger, so just the fact that I can, you know, try and mix it up and vary the plays. I think that just makes it very untraditional.
Q. And they had a nickname for you, The Crown Jewel or something.
Irina Falconi: Yeah, The Crown Jewel.
Q. They just started that early on? They still tease you about that?
Irina Falconi: Yeah, ever since I was small. I mean, they always said, You’re really talented and you’re going to make it. I was young and I obviously wanted it very badly, and, you know, just a few months ago they told me they were like, yeah, You’re our crown jewel for sure.
Yeah, it’s nice to have that nickname, especially where you grew up, so yeah.
Q. I guess your whole family moved to Jupiter when you were 14.
Irina Falconi: Right.
Q. How often do you get back? Do you still have any relatives in the area, anything like that?
Irina Falconi: I have a few family members that live in Upstate New York, but I’m actually staying with some family friends.
But I don’t visit as much as I’d like to. I came last year for the US Open. So I think I’ve only been here like once or twice after ’04, so yeah.
Q. How would you describe that public park that you played at growing up? Were the courts in good condition?
Irina Falconi: I was actually there last night.
Q. What did you go back for?
Irina Falconi: Just for the atmosphere.
Q. Oh, cool.
Irina Falconi: I love it there. Yeah, it brings back memories, so it was nice. I was just with friends, and I wanted to show them where I grew up. You know, the courts were in my eyes, they looked like they were in good condition.
But, I mean, it was nine courts, nine public courts. It was next to a kids’ park and it also had a baseball field and has a basketball court, as well. So it’s just got a lot of stuff happening there. So, yeah, I mean, I was surrounded by a lot of people that were older than me at all times, so yeah.
Q. When you came back, what’s your impression as an adult of where you formed your game?
Irina Falconi: Oh, I mean, I’m always going to have a soft spot for it in my heart. I mean, I love the area, and, yeah, it definitely still brings me back memories. You know, I hope to go and play some a little bit on those courts just to see how it feels and actually see whether or not they’re good courts. I wouldn’t be able to tell you. (Laughter.)
Q. Talk about who you’re playing tomorrow. What do you know about her and what are your expectations and the game plan going in?
Irina Falconi: Well, that’s actually what my coach, he’s going to take care of that and do homework tonight. Then I just pretty much get to review it tomorrow. Then from there we can build a practical plan on how to get there.
You know, she’s just another opponent, and I know that all these players are going to be good, they’re all going to be tough, and they’re all going to battle out there.
So, you know, I’m just going to go in there knowing that it’s going to be a war. I’m ready for whatever comes.
Q. Are you aware of her injury? She pulled out of the last event she was in.
Irina Falconi: I have no idea. Didn’t even know.
Q. What was your expectation coming into the qualifying tournament?
Irina Falconi: Well, you know, to every tournament you have to come in with the expectation you’re going to win the tournament. So doesn’t matter whether it’s the US Open, whether it’s a $10,000 tournament, you have to have that same mindset.
Q. Did you feel much pressure in the last match to get in the tournament? I mean, you handled her pretty cleanly it looked like.
Irina Falconi: Well, I didn’t think I mean, pressure is something you put upon yourself. It’s just created. I really didn’t feel like I was impacted by it much.
Q. Will you sleep pretty good tonight?
Irina Falconi: Tonight?
Irina Falconi: Yes, I will. I will.
Q. Don’t think about anything? Just get some rest? Coming through that tournament as a qualifier though, it sounds like it could wear you out a little bit by the time you get to the main draw.
Irina Falconi: Um, you know, all these players have definitely come a long way. They have to experience the day in, day out, playing every single day. It’s match four of this tournament, you know. I’m not seeing it as now it’s the main draw, it was the qualifying. It’s just my fourth match. Yeah.
Q. Will you expect to have any friends or fans in the stands tomorrow?
Irina Falconi: Absolutely. Yeah, a lot of them specifically are going to come back tomorrow, so I’m excited.
Q. Are you playing Court 11?
Irina Falconi: Yes.
Q. Was one of your qualifying matches on that court?
Irina Falconi: Yes.
Q. Does that help just because you’re familiar?
Irina Falconi: Yeah, I mean, court’s gonna be the same. But, yeah, I mean…
Q. Same dimensions and, .
Irina Falconi: Yeah, it’s going to be the same dimensions, for sure. You know, obviously you feel a little bit of boost and a little bit of confidence when you know you have already done well on the court.
So, yeah, I’m going in there, yeah.
Q. What did it mean to you to get the wildcard into the qualifying?
Irina Falconi: Oh, it was really exciting. I actually got a call from my coach letting me know that I had gotten it. He was the first one to tell me. So I was very excited.
It caught me off guard. You know, I was really praying for it, so when I found out I got it, I was very excited.