'Goal is to play in the Grand Slams qualifiers': Serena Williams fangirl Eden Silva wants to take it match by match
Speaking to Hindustan Times Digital, Eden Silva talks about her experience of coming back to India for the ITF Women's Open, that unforgettable Wimbledon experience and why she considers Serena Williams as a perfect role model.
One of Eden Silva's biggest weapon is her mental strength. And that has helped the 2019 Wimbledon mixed doubles quarterfinalist not just remain positive even through the lows, but also prioritise the factors that define her being. Silva, now 26, had suffered an early jolt in her career. In 2015, during a tournament in Italy, she had suffered a full cruciate ligament tear which took away a lot from her game. Besides the years, Silva had to rethink about her singles career but instead of giving up, she shifted focus to doubles, where she later won eight ITF titles including a that "memorable" Wimbledon experience. But the only takeaway for the British tennis player, through that experience, was to touch base with herself which she later exquisitely put to words in an article for 'Behind the racket', mentioning "You don’t know what to do with yourself once tennis has been taken away. But there is Eden the tennis player and then there is Eden the person..." Silva, a Serena Williams fangirl, also found joy in fashion, on which she even completed a course during lockdown and has kept it as a viable career option for the future.
10 years after making his first appearance in India, in what was her debut year, Silva returned to the country for the ongoing KPB Trust ITF Women's Open at the KSLTA Stadium in Bengaluru, where she beat the same player she had faced back then, India's Sharmada Balu, and now has race her way through to the quarters after beating qualifier Mei Yamaguchi in the second match.
Speaking to Hindustan Times Digital, Silva talks about her experience of coming back to India for the ITF Women's Open, that unforgettable Wimbledon experience and why she considers Serena as a perfect role model. Here are excerpts...
Q) How does it feel being back in India, you already won your first match at the ITF Women's Open?
It feels really great being back in India. I really enjoy coming and playing here. I love the culture and the food is amazing. It is one of my favorite places. So far both the tournaments that I have played have been great and well organised. So I am really happy to be here and to have won yesterday.
Q) You had in fact faced Sharmada Balu exactly 10 years back and it was a three-set tie. Do you remember that match?
Oh yes...I do remember. It was in Mumbai, back in 2013. I remember it being a long match. So yes I was happy to get revenge (laughs), even if it was 10 years later. And now I am excited to play the next match.
Q) What do you feel about your chances here in this tournament?
I always start the tournament taking it one match at a time. But yes you do have to believe that you have good chances to win. If you don't have that self belief then your chances get lower. But yes, I don't like to think too far ahead and want to give my best in every match.
Q) You have been an active player in both singles and doubles circuit with more success in the latter. Do you identify yourself as a doubles player? Has there ever been sort of a thought that maybe I would just focus on one format?
I was playing a lot of doubles, primarily because I struggled with a lot of knee injuries in my career so far. It was something that I was doing because it was physically a lot easier on my body. But last year I made a decision myself to play a lot more singles and give myself a chance in singles. I think doubles is always something that I can have, in which I am good at, and come back to and focus more at the later stage of my life.
At the moment I am focused more on singles but of course when I am at the tournament I will play doubles and try and find a good partner so that I can have the chance of winning a title. I still really enjoy playing doubles. But again, my main focus now is on singles.
Q) You are also an active model so how do you tend to switch between the two jobs?
I wouldn't say I am an active model (laughs). I have an agency that helps me with clothing and sponsorship, so I guess that is what the information was.
Q) I heard you had done a course in fashion during lockdown. Is that something that you look to explore in the near future maybe?
During lockdown, it was a tough time for everyone. A lot of things got taken away from us which took our usual routine and hence we had to find different things to keep ourselves occupied. I have always loved fashion and hence I felt it was something I could do in my spare time while I couldn't play tennis and enjoy it as it could put my mind off lockdown. So yes for sure it is something I would consider in the future.
Q) You have always spoken very highly of Serena Williams as an inspiration, if you could speak on that. Did you ever get a chance to meet her?
She is my favourite player of all time. She is a great role model for so many young women. The way she fights, on and off the court. She has always shown true desire. She never turns up for a match and does not give her 10 per cent. I think it is really entertaining to watch and I respect her massively as a tennis player. And she always looks great on the tennis court too.
Q) I was really touched by your article in Behind the Racket where you had talked about your injury, especially that last line - "There is Eden a tennis player and then there is Eden the person" - If you could just talk about that.
That article was definitely something that I liked doing and speaking about. There was a time in my career when...it was in the early stage of my career, 18 or 19, when I had an injury and it took me out for a year and a half and I had to undergo surgery for it. It was a tough time for me and I had to separate the person that I am from me as a tennis player and find different things that make me happy because I couldn't rely on tennis to make me happy or give me validation. I think it is important for a lot of tennis players or athletes or anyone in general to make sure that their sole purpose of happiness is not just their profession or their job, because when that gets taken away from you they are left anxious and sad. I guess it is a poor thing to have and so you need something else that brings you joy.
Q) You best memory so far in tennis?
Well it has to be getting into the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in mixed doubles. Me and my partner (Evan Hoyt) had discovered in the very last minute that we would be getting a wild card. And we played great together given that it was the first time for both of us to play mixed doubles ever. We have defeated a couple of Indian players as well, Leander Paes in the first round and Divij Sharan in the next. We beat some great players and had a really cool experience. Wimbledon is a tournament that every player dreams of playing and loves to play.
Q) What is it like playing in Wimbledon?
It is just one of those tournaments where you feel so special as soon as you walk in. The grass is immaculate, perfectly kept. You want to play such good tennis on these courts all the time. It is a very prestigious place. Like I said, it is one of those tournaments which, when you are little, you dream of playing and when you finally get to play you feel very special and all your hard work is paid off. And yes, it is my favourite tournament in the world.
Q) Your ultimate tennis goal
My short-term goal is to play in the qualifiers of Grand Slams. I like to focus on short-term goals rather than giving myself a big one. If I get a few more good results I will be able to play that given where my ranking is at. So now I need to focus on one match at a time and try to give my best and focus on the process and not the outcome and hopefully I can get to where I need to get to.
- Serena Williams