London: Switzerland's Timea Bacsinszky says her time as a lowly hotel intern provided a valuable life-lesson that has fuelled her run to the Wimbledon quarter-finals.
Timea Bacsinszky. Pic/AFP
Frustrated by a succession of injuries and struggling with a difficult relationship with her father, Bacsinszky was at a low ebb when she turned her back on tennis to start working in a hotel two years ago. But the experience of an industry that brought her into close contact with the general public made her realise how fortunate she had been to enjoy the cosseted existence of a tennis pro.
And she barely got started on her hotel management studies before she decided it was time to return to the court with a new-found perspective on life. "I just liked this contact with people. Someone's coming for a coffee, and you just try to give five nice minutes to this person," 15th seed Bacsinszky said after setting up a Wimbledon last eight clash against Spain's Garbine Muguruza.
"Because going to a restaurant or sleeping in a nice hotel for most of the people, it can be a highlight of their week. "Maybe some people, they don't have enough money to eat in restaurants like we, tennis players are doing it every year. "I always love to help people out, to chat with people, to give them something, just to make this moment special to the people."
Wrestling with her personal demons had taken its toll on the Swiss, but she rekindled her positive outlook by seeing the happiness of the guests she served in hotels. "I know why I am like this, because when you suffered so much at a certain point, you're nice with everyone somehow," she added. "You're happy seeing other people happy because maybe inside you're not that happy yourself.
"It was the one thing that kept me going, going, going, going. I learned that by working with a psychologist." After three months away from the sport, the 26-year-old, who is fluent in five languages, has made up for lost time with a remarkable rise up the rankings. She took titles at Acapulco and Monterrey this year, climbing into the world's top 30 for the first time on the back of a 15-match winning run that only ended with a French Open semi-final defeat against Serena Williams.
Bacsinszky had never previously gone beyond the third round of a Grand Slam tournament, but she has followed that breakthrough run in Paris by making the quarter-finals at Wimbledon thanks to Monday's win over Monica Niculescu. It is the kind of unlikely tale that could go to a player's head, but Bacsinszky's hotel experience will keep her feet firmly on the ground.
"I'm not dreaming about big tournaments like Wimbledon. Obviously those are biggest tournaments ever in this job. But for me, it's the joy of being able to compete," she said. "No matter where I am, it's the first round, Marrakech where the courts are terrible, or if it's somewhere else like Wimbledon, it's really the love of the game I play for."