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Pocket Rocket: Japan No. 1 Nara enjoys rapid rise up ranking

20140308_Kurumi-Nara_AFP_615x400bJapan No. 1 KURUMI NARA has risen more than 100 places up the rankings in the past year after reaching the third round at the US Open and Australian Open before winning her maiden WTA title at last month’s Rio Open. The WTA caught up with the 22-year-old after her move into the top 50.

 

Interview: wtatennis.com  Cover photo: AFP

 

Where did you grow up in Japan?
I was born in Hyogo and I still live there with my father, mother, brother and grandmother.

 

Can you tell us a little bit about your family?
Both my parents work in medicine and my brother is going to university, although I don’t know what he’s studying! My father’s name is Shungo and my mother’s is Satoko. My brother is called Tsubasa and is a few years younger than me. They all play tennis, but just for fun.

 

Does your family ever travel with you to tournaments?
This year’s Australian Open was the first time my father and mother came with me. It was strange for them because they’d never been outside of Japan.

 

Nara won her maiden WTA title at February’s inaugural Rio Open in Brazil. Photo: Getty Images.

Nara won her maiden WTA title at February’s inaugural Rio Open in Brazil. Photo: Getty Images.

How did you start playing tennis?
My father liked playing tennis and they would go to the tennis court every weekend. One day, when I was about four, I went with them.

 

Can you talk about your coaching history?
My first coach was in Osaka and now my coach is Matsuki Harada. Now I train in Tokyo, where there is a national centre, and also Osaka. Lots of the other Japanese girls, like Misaki Doi and Ayumi Morita, are in Tokyo so it is a good environment.

 

Who were your tennis idols when you were growing up?
Justine Henin. I liked how she played and her one-handed backhand.

 

What is the best memory of your career so far?
I think last year at the US Open. It was my first time playing there and I got to the third round, so it’s still a very nice memory for me.

 

Nara beat 19th seed Sorana Cirstea at the 2013 US Open before losing in the third round to Jelena Jankovic, the former World No. 1 who also beat the Japanese in the third round of this year’s Australian Open.

Nara, then 21, beat 19th seed Sorana Cirstea at the 2013 US Open before losing in the third round to Jelena Jankovic, the former World No. 1 who also beat the Japanese in the third round of this year’s Australian Open. Photo: AFP.

What’s your favourite surface and tournament?
Hardcourt and the US Open.

 

How would you describe your game?
I move very well and also have good mental strength. At the moment, I don’t have so much power and this is something I need to work hard on.

 

What are your short and long-term goals?

I don’t like to think about my ranking too much, but I’m very excited to be playing WTA tournaments, so I just want to stay in the top 100. Eventually, I would like to get to the top 30.

 

Do you have any superstitions?

I have a gift from my friend that I always take in my tennis bag.

 

What’s the best thing about being a tennis player?
I think getting to go to so many countries is very nice.

 

Kurumi Nara with Fed Cup teammates (from second left) Misaki Doi, captain Yuka Kaneko, Risa Ozaki and Shuko Aoyama ahead of February’s first-round match in Argentina. Photos: Sergio Llamera.

Nara with Fed Cup teammates (from second left) Misaki Doi, captain Yuka Kaneko, Risa Ozaki and Shuko Aoyama ahead of February’s first-round match in Argentina. Photo: Sergio Llamera.

And the worst?
Not getting to go home very much.

 

When you are not playing tennis, what do you like to do to relax?
I like to listen to music – Kelly Clarkson and One Direction – and to watch motorbike racing. Also, normal things like shopping, talking to friends and going to dinner.

 

How would you describe your personality?
I think I’m friendly!

 

If you weren’t a tennis player, what would you be doing now?

I finished high school, so maybe going to university. I don’t like studying, but I know it’s good to do it.

 

Source: WTA

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