"I've always looked up to Rafael Nadal for his incredible sportsmanship, resilience & what he has brought to the sport" - Sorana Cirstea reflects on her favorite player, her tennis goals & her 15-year career

Sorana Cirstea called Rafael Nadal her favorite player in an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda
Sorana Cirstea called Rafael Nadal her favorite player in an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda

Romania's Sorana Cirstea has been on the WTA tour for more than 15 years, and is familiar with the highs and lows of the professional circuit.

After being ranked as high as No. 21 in the world back in 2013, Cirstea fell into a bit of a slump for a few years. But she has enjoyed a renaissance over the past 18 months, climbing back to No. 32 in the rankings.

Cirstea has two WTA singles & five WTA doubles titles under her belt, but she told Sportskeeda in an exclusive interview that her biggest match is yet to come. The 32-year-old also talked about life as a tennis player, what she admires about her favorite player in the game, and how she has dealt with tough periods in her career.

Excerpts from an exclusive interview with Sorana Cirstea

Sportskeeda: You’ve had a good run over the past 18 months, climbing from outside the top 70 to the brink of the top 30. What do you think has clicked and what are your goals for the next 18 months?

Sorana Cirstea: I started the year quite well, which was the result of all the hard work in the pre-season and continuation of a good season in 2021. I set no specific goals but rather focused on improving my game whilst enjoying every moment on the tour.

Sportskeeda: This is your 15th year as a professional player on the WTA tour. How do you look back at the journey and what has motivated you to keep going?

Sorana Cirstea: More than titles, rankings or specific results, i am proud of my career because I have given my 100% all the time. I started this journey very young and I am still enjoying the competition. My main motivation has always been to give my very best and the driver is my passion for the sport

Sportskeeda: What has the sport of tennis and being a pro player taught you about yourself and about life?

Sorana Cirstea: There are many things you can learn for life as a professional athlete. Work ethics, respect, perseverance, resilience and, above all, you get to know yourself as a person because you are being pushed to the limits.

Sportskeeda: What do you love most and what do you dislike about being a professional tennis player?

Sorana Cirstea: I like the competition and feel blessed to be able to have tennis, which is my passion, as my profession. I love traveling the world, meeting new people and seeing new cultures. But of course, that comes at a price, which is not spending enough time with family and loved ones back home.

Sportskeeda: You’ve had some great wins over the likes of Venus Williams, Angelique Kerber, Petra Kvitova, Karolína Plískova, Caroline Wozniacki, Jelena Jankovic and Li Na during your career. If you had to pick one match to call your biggest win to date, which one would that be?

Sorana Cirstea: I have indeed had some great wins in all these years but I think the biggest match is still to come!!

Sportskeeda: You had great success in your first couple of seasons on the tour before slipping down the rankings for some time. As a rookie, did you expect a quick ascent to the higher tier of women’s tennis? How did you manage the period when your ranking dipped and there was more pressure to perform?

Sorana Cirstea: It is never easy to turn professional and be successful at a young age. You go in with no fear and a fresh mind but then expectations rise and the pressure starts mounting. That’s when you need a good team around you to keep your feet on the ground and set realistic goals. I could have handled it better but I feel this was part of my journey and I am proud to have learnt from it.

Sportskeeda: Who has been the toughest player for you to play against and why? Also, who is your favorite player to watch?

Sorana Cirstea: There have been many tough players and I have been lucky to battle against players of different generations - right from Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters to the Williams sisters and now Iga Swiatek.

With regards to my favorite player, I have always looked up to Rafael Nadal for his incredible sportsmanship, resilience and what he has brought to the sport.

Sportskeeda: The debate about who is the greatest player of all time always brings up some interesting perspectives. As a current player, who in your opinion is the G.O.A.T. in women’s tennis?

Serena Williams at the Rogers Cup in Toronto in 2013
Serena Williams at the Rogers Cup in Toronto in 2013

Sorana Cirstea: I don't think anybody can say who has been the greatest. Different eras have had amazing champions from Margaret Court, Billie and Jean King to Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf, and most recently Serena Williams. They have all contributed and made history in our sport and singling out just one would not do justice to the rest.

Sportskeeda: Serena Williams made a comeback at the age of 40 at this year's Wimbledon Championships. What are your thoughts on her return after a year on the sidelines?

Sportskeeda: Serena Williams is one great example of a champion and it really inspires others to carry on. We are lucky to have many more that have given a lot to tennis and made comebacks such as Kim Clijsters.

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