(Picture Copyright: Helge Kirchberger)
Barbara Schett is a former Austrian tennis player who climbed up to 7th place in the WTA ranking in 1999. Since her retirement in 2005, the now 37-year-old is a tennis expert for Eurosport and is still involved in tennis in other ways as well. In an exclusive interview with Let’s Talk Tennis, Schett talks about her „new“ life and both entertaining and boring interviewees, and reveals her most embarrassing experience so far.
Barbara Schett, you’re still involved in tennis even after your retirement and, among other things, are following the Tour as an expert for Eurosport. And you have a family of your own now. How do you do it all?
Schett: I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing without the support of my husband and my parents. Due to my job, I travel to all 4 Grand Slam tournaments and I’m also on-site at the bet-at-home Cup in Kitzbühel and the Generali Ladies in Linz. I spend approximately 12 weeks per year travelling, and the rest of the time I’m a mother and do what other women do, such as going to the playground, and the like …
How difficult is it to suddenly lead a „normal“ life after spending years on the Tour and retiring from professional tennis? Should we prepare players better for their life after tennis?
During my career, it was already clear to me that I needed to plan what I wanted to be doing after my life as a tennis player and in which direction I wanted to develop. I needed to know what my life would look like and I knew I wanted to still be involved in tennis in some way. I took up my job with Eurosport straight after my career, and I became a tournament ambassador for the „Generali Ladies“ in Linz and a brand ambassador for several well-known companies. Before the end of your career, you should think about how you would like to develop professionally after your retirement; but above all: you need to use your contacts. And you should also be aware that it’s not going to be just about you anymore; instead, you’ll need to learn to adjust. But as I’ve said before, I didn’t have any problems with this switch and I’m very happy with my life.
On-Court Coaching has been allowed in women’s tennis for quite a while now. What’s your opinion on this?
Me personally, I don’t make much of it. Tennis is an individual sport and it’s nice to take your own decisions on the court. I don’t think I would have made a lot of use of on-court coaching myself. For the people in front of the TV, however, it’s certainly interesting to observe the back and forth between the coach and the player.
You follow the Tour as an expert and interview all the top players. Who’s the most pleasant and interesting person to talk to?
Interviews with Roger Federer are always extremely relaxing and exciting. He’s always friendly and answers your questions charmingly. Novak Djokovic’s statements are intelligent, but also witty. And you can always count on Maria Sharapova’s professional answers. Caroline Wozniacki and Agnieszka Radwanska’s replies are usually standard answers and it’s only rarely that you’ll find out something new. Interviews with Serena Williams, on the other hand, are like playing the lottery: you never know what’s next. I think it depends on how she’s feeling on any particular day.
You appear on TV a lot. What’s your most embarrassing experience so far?
That was at the Masters in Istanbul last year during a live interview with Mary Pierce. I was waiting for my producer’s signal on my earphone telling me when I should start talking about the match – but his signal just wouldn’t come. I was slowly running out of questions and the only thing I managed to utter in the end was: „OK Mary, what else?“ Nothing happened during the next 20 seconds before – thank goodness – she just chattered on. But I was extremely embarrassed!
Marion Bartoli retired from professional tennis at the height of her career. Did you expect this?
Her decision really surprised me too, but I hope that she didn’t make this decision on the spur of the moment and that she’ll reconsider the whole thing. Maybe she should have taken a break of 2 to 3 months and then she might have realized whether she’s still motivated enough or not. During Wimbledon 2014 at the latest, Marion will be sitting in front of the TV full of nostalgia because she won’t be able to defend her title.
Tamira Paszek doesn’t seem to be really picking up pace this year. What do you think are the reasons behind this?
I think Tamira just doesn’t have any self-confidence at the moment. It’s a matter of time before she gains her self-confidence back – she’s still young and can certainly get out of this. She’ll make it if she works hard, is disciplined and persistent.
If you had the opportunity to play one match of your career again – which one would you choose and why?
I once had a match point against Monica Seles in Madrid, when she was ranked number 1 in the world. She had her second service – the ball bounced off the line and flew right over me. If I hadn’t moved up into the court too far to wait for the return, I probably would have won the point. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to play against her again.
Martina Hingis has launched another comeback. Do you think she’ll be able to win a major doubles title?
With the right partner – definitely!