By Mike McIntyre
Photos: Jimmie48 Tennis Photography
CoCo Vandeweghe's 2018 season did not start the way the American hoped it would but she is making up for lost time with a strong start to the clay court season. The now 16th ranked Vandeweghe made it into the finals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart proving that her hard court game can transition just as well on the slower surface
I caught up with the 26 year old recently and she explained how missing a large chunk of the early part of the year has actually helped her to stay rested and full of energy that has propelled her this past week to big wins over three top-ten players such as Sloane Stephens, Caroline Garcia and World No. 1 Simona Halep.
"I haven’t flown all over the world to crazy places in the Middle East or South America where other tournaments were going on," Vandeweghe explained to me. "So I feel actually really fresh and happy to be going and back into it."
After catching the Australian flu while Down Under for the first Grand Slam of the year in Melbourne, Vandeweghe took a month off before representing the United States in Fed Cup play. She then took nearly another full month away from the court in order to fully recover before playing in the Tie Break Tens exhibition event at Madison Square Gardens in New York City and then followed that up with the hardcourt events in Indian Wells and Miami where she only managed to win a single match. To say her success this week on clay is a surprise in an understatement to be sure.
Not having as many matches under her belt this year seems to be working to her advantage and Vandeweghe feels as though she over-extended herself in 2017 which she believes led to her immune system breaking-down to kick-off her 2018 campaign.
"When you get sick you feel weak and especially as an athlete it takes a little bit of time to get your fitness back and your strength back. I had a very long year the year before in 2017. I played all the way until November 14th for the Fed Cup final which is over a month longer than I would normally play. It was a lot of tennis last year and it finally caught up to me."
After making the semi-finals of both the Australian and US Open's last year expectations understandably increased for Vandeweghe and it appears now that she is finally able to follow-through on them. The fiery American admits that she expects more from herself as well after her achievements last season and has the following tangible goals in mind including a stronger mental resolve to stay focused on court.
"There’s a lot of things. It’s such small percentages. Making top ten and moving forward. So it’s really focusing on simpler play and making sure my mental lapses aren’t as long. Sometimes you get a little bored or frustrated – you just don’t pay attention the same way."
While Vandeweghe has taken criticism for her heated exchanges and behavior on court over the years, she makes no apologies for her emotional approach to the game and doesn't have any plans to change on that front.
"Its done me well up until this point. I mean I didn’t get here by being a softy. It’s how I was raised and how I’m capable of competing and I don’t think I will be changing."
There is certainly no reason to change what she has been doing this week in Stuttgart as she lost a close final to former World No. 1 Karolina Pliskova 7-6(2), 6-4 on Sunday which will undoubtedly put the American on the radar as one to watch as we progress through the clay court season and approach Roland Garros at the end of May.