Russia’s No.4 woman Ekaterina Makarova is beginning to hit her stride at Melbourne Park. After making the fourth round at the Australian Open in 2011 – only to lose to third seed Kim Clijsters – she then went on to reach the quarterfinals last year before succumbing to fellow countrywoman Maria Sharapova. Sitting at acareer-high world No.19, Makarova is playing some of the best tennis of hercareer and is looking to make a bold statement at Australian Open 2013.
She stopped for a chat with australianopen.com before her fourth round match against Angelique Kerber to talk about what makes her tick on the court.
Tennis is such a mental game and staying positive on court can be tough. Do you talk to yourself a lot during matches?
Definitely. I’m talking to myself a lot on court, and it's more the negative things rather than positive. I’m usually not happy with what I’m doing... I mean I serve somewhere I shouldn’t and I lose the point and I think, “Oh, I shouldn’t have done that... why did I do that?”
But I’m working on it and now it’s getting better. I’m trying to be more positive but yeah, it’s tough.
Next up you play fifth seed Angelique Kerber from Germany. How much preparation do you put into your opponents and how exactly do you prepare?
I don’t do anything special really. I’m talking with my coaches a lot, they give me the gameplan and then I try to do what they say on the court. And when we have a day off we’ll just practice once and try to figure out something which is going to work against my opponent. So it’s some physical stuff but nothing too major.
You hit 51 winners in your third round match against Marion Bartoli. How would you describe your playing style?
I like when I play aggressive and I’m always thinking on the court what I have to do and where I should hit the ball. It’s really helped me. But at the same time in some games and some points, I’ll stay back a little bit and just run around and wait for my opponent's mistakes.
But last year I improved a lot and I’m starting to play more aggressive tennis. Normally some shots I want to just hit really hard but it’s not my key, you know. I’m not like Serena Williams (laughs). But I try to play a lot of points and move my opponent around a lot.
And with that, what is your biggest weapon on the court?
(Long pause)... That’s a hard one. I guess it’s my backhand down the line and my serve.
You’re in the top 20 now for the first time in your career. Does that place any added pressure or expectation on you to perform?
No, I don’t think like that. I’m really happy but I honestly don’t feel I’m in the top 20. I really wanted to get there last year and sometimes I thought that it wasn’t possible, but I’m here now. As I said, I don’t feel any different but still it gives me some power.
There are a lot of fellow Russian women who are very high in the rankings – Maria Sharapova, Maria Kirilenko, Nadia Petrova etc. – is it competitive among you or do you get along pretty well?
With some I’m really friendly but with others it’s really difficult because we’re all big competitors and we want to beat everyone on top of us. But still, with a lot of girls we’re really friendly and we play Fed Cup together. And I mean, it’s tough to play Fed Cup if you’re not good friends with each other. But I think we have a pretty good team with all the Russian girls.
What’s the best part about playing here in Melbourne for the Australian Open?
I’m really enjoying being here and actually I really like food in Australia (laughs). It doesn’t matter which city, it’s just really tasty and so good. I don’t know why exactly but it’s so different to Europe or America. I mainly like the fish here because it’s really fresh.
Also it’s just so comfortable here. I love the Melbourne shops and my hotel, and even the stadiums. I just really love to be here.
Ekaterina Makarova plays Angelique Kerber in the fourth round on Sunday for a spot in the quarterfinals.