© Getty Images
Vania King has had an outstanding career since turning pro in July 2006, winning one WTA Tour singles title and seven doubles titles, including the Brisbane doubles championship in January. A 20-year-old from Long Beach, Calif., King will be writing an exclusive blog for USTA.com throughout the year as she travels to different tournaments around the world. This week, she is in Charleston, S.C., competing in the Family Circle Cup.
Have a question for Vania? She will be answering questions from fans in her daily blogs and would love to hear from you . Please keep in mind, however, that due to her busy playing schedule she does not have time to answer all questions.
Friday, April 17
I'm just going to answer questions in this blog today.
I have a daughter who is 12 years old and plays tennis. She wants to turn pro at 14 or 15 years old, which is a great goal. As her coach and father, I continue to tell her to shoot for the stars, but I do know it takes a lot of money to travel on the tour. I have two questions:
1) How do you manage your money (travel expenses, coaching expenses, etc.)? Do you look at every tournament as a business trip, i.e., each tournament is viewed positive (in the black) or negative (in the red)? Or do you look at your finances yearly?
2) How do you plan for your retirement or life after tennis? Do you have a financial planner, or do you save money for life after tennis?
Hi Alex. To answer your first question, I manage my bank accounts, so I know exactly how much goes in and out. Yes, I know I do do a lot of shopping (I keep telling you guys that); however, that amount is basically a fraction of what I spend on expenses. In tennis, you can make a lot of money, but you spend a lot of money, especially if you have a coach, family member, fitness coach, etc. I don't have a financial planner; however, I have already made an investment that took up most of the money I saved. At this stage, I can't make enough to retire happily, but actually, I read that most athletes end their careers with the same or less money than when they started, so it's not just playing well that counts! I know more or less how much money per week I bring in, and that determines how much I can spend.
After tennis I want to work, probably not in tennis, so I would like to make sure I am financially stable before finishing tennis! OK, I think I sort of answered both questions there!
Do you think juniors have to go to a prestigious tennis academy and have to do well in their junior career to play on tour in the future?
Hi Elijah. I don't think juniors have to go to a tennis academy or be good at the junior level to play well as a professional. I do think that they have to have a good circle around them (a supportive team -- parents, coaches, mentality) to provide the best possible chance to do well. I was never great in the juniors (I actually did way better in doubles, and since the ITF juniors rankings are combined, it helped my overall ranking). What matters most is that you focus your goal on the pros so you keep trying to improve until then (and continue to).
Do you remember how old you were when you gained serious intensity on the tennis court? I have a son who shows great potential, but he does not seem to take his practice seriously at all. He's pretty good, and I would love him to continue with the game, but I don't want to push too hard. He's only 8 years old.
Hi Jeff. As a tennis parent, I understand you want your child to follow in the path of tennis; however, if your son is only 8, I think the best way to help him is to make it fun! Keep tennis as the main priority, but mix up the practices with different drills and prizes, and maybe do some other activities, like other sports or arts/music.
Personally, I think I always wanted to win, and that eclipsed having fun for me. If I didn't win, I didn't have fun. Of course, that is part of my personality. However, I had to learn to focus on the direction, the improvement, because it can go both ways -- if you are too much of a perfectionist, you can get stuck in your little bubble, or if you are too careless, then you can't focus enough to get things done!
But, he is still your child, and it is a parent's responsibility to give their children discipline and direction. Keep practicing and working hard, but maybe throw in some varied activities. It will help his mind and his fitness! :)
Wednesday, April 15
Unfortunately, I lost today. However, I didn't play such a bad match (although the score seemed kind of bad). I still have a lot of things to work on, but I'm pleased with my performance, considering I was injured and took a lot of time off and didn't have a lot of days to practice.
I'm going to go back to Miami to practice, and I'm planning to start in Rome qualifying, so hopefully I will be really fit and ready to make some noise! Right now, I can't wait to just relax on the beach tomorrow afternoon! And maybe do some shopping. I can't resist!
I just had fried chicken for dinner (my housing is AWESOME), so now I'm full and ready for a bath. I must say that Charleston was way better this time around -- um... maybe because I'm not traveling with a family member? Well, I guess that's the case because this year has been way more fun. Haha! I'm just growing up, I guess.
I'm so lucky to be doing what I'm doing, just to be able to meet amazing people, like the couple that is housing us (and his sister and his sister's husband, who came down from New York to watch the tennis). Every day has been really fun. There is a little pond near the practice courts with a little alligator (maybe five feet?) and some lawn chairs, and it's a perfect place to read a book or listen to music and relax! Doing that on the beach isn't too bad, either.
OK, so I can't think of anything else, so I'll answer a question now. A "fan" asks (although I can see a name linked to the email address):
What is the one thing on Tour that shocked you, or that you just couldn’t prepare for?
Hello, Fan! Well, there are a lot of things that you can't prepare for on the Tour, from seeing your idols up close and playing against them, to the traveling non-stop and packing and unpacking, and various travel stories in faraway places. I would say the thing that I was most unprepared for was the reality of tennis.
When I first played on the Tour, I was naive and went in there with no expectation. I skyrocketed to the top. After that, I wanted to protect and hold my ranking so badly, I ended up playing not to lose, instead of to win. It took me so long to relax and enjoy myself -- it's something I still am working on! The other things that surprise you you get used to, like learning what necessities to pack, how much sleep you need, how much practice, how often you can go out, things like that. It just takes time!
Monday, April 13
Well, I'm going to make this short and sweet because I am really, really tired! I played my first round of singles today, and after at least three hours, I won. It was quite unexpected, really. I was getting really tired, especially in the third set (but I think she was, too), and my foot started hurting in the second, so I guess I'm really lucky I pulled it through!
My coach here works with Tarik Benhabiles. Did I mention that before? I can't remember. Tarik is here, too, and those two are inseparable -- I think because they are the only French people here.
Also, I got bit (I think) by no-see-ums, except, I could see them. Many of them. I layered and layered the bug spray but still got bit. I got bit a lot on the back because I didn't spray there. When I was younger, I used to get bit everywhere -- if I was in a bug-infested area I would get bit hundreds of times. I would stop counting the bites after I hit 100 on my arms. I'm also allergic to them, but the details are too gross.
It's currently pouring outside -- apparently this storm may last until tomorrow or tomorrow morning. We went to the player party at Saks Fifth Avenue in downtown Charleston and were supposed to just make an appearance and then go to dinner, but I ended up staying a bit to make shower gel, body splash, take pictures in a photo booth, take candy and sit for a caricature. It was pretty fun, I must say.
We went afterwards to dinner downtown to a Thai place, but it was too busy, so we went next door to eat. So now I'm back at the house, sitting at the table and writing to you!
Until next time,
Sunday, April 12
I'm here in Charleston and staying in housing. I have to say that my housing "parents" are AMAZING. And their house is amazing, too :) We are right on the water. If I look out my bedroom, I can see the ocean and can walk to the beach.
My housing mom, Melinda, read my blog (aha, people DO read it!) and picked out a lot of snack foods that I wrote I liked, so... I had all the snack foods I liked even before I got here!!
Practice has been good. My foot held up for three hours (but didn't last the last half hour), and today it held up for two hours and a light run. So I'm very happy about that! I'm happy about my coaching situation and happy about my tennis (no matter how I do here), so, in general, I'm happy!
Cheers everybody! :)
Friday, April 10
Today as my father drove me to the airport, I remembered a little bit after we left that I had forgotten to bring my contact lenses. I immediately called my mom and asked her if she would meet me at the airport and bring them. She agreed. I felt bad, not only because she had to drive all the way to the airport for the tiny contact lenses but also because I usually forget at least one thing per trip.
However, when she arrived to the airport and I met her at the curb, the first thing she said to me was, “I got to hug my baby again. Driving to the airport was worth it just to hug you again.” Hearing her say that almost made me cry. Being home was a terrific thing for me. I don’t know in a few months, when I look back on what I did, if I will think that I ultimately made the right decision for my tennis, but it will have been worth it.
That’s one of the hard things about traveling for me. I love being home and with my family and in my comfortable surroundings. I think it may be one of the reasons I feel more emotional than I have before I started traveling by myself. I am happier, I am sadder, I am more frustrated, I am more elated. I’m not saying that I’m an emotional person -- actually, usually people don’t see much emotion from me. However, since I started traveling by myself, I find that I miss my family more, appreciate them more, love them more. When you are stuck in the same situation, you can blind yourself to what is closest to your heart.
Well, I guess I first must say that I am on my way to Charleston. I decided to go and try to play. However, when I practiced the last two days, my foot was hurting when I was running, but when I took a little break, the pain eased. But since I’ve decided to go, I’m not going to do it halfway, so unless my foot fractures or I am in excruciating pain, I’m going to play the tournament!
On a side note, I have sorted out my coaching situation -- at least for the next week, haha! We’ll see after that. I am trying to still work with Tarik Benhabiles, but he is working with another player, Peng Shuai, so I am working with one of his coaches next week. It may be a better thing, anyway. We’ll see. Even if it works out, I may have to see if my wallet can afford it! I guess shopping too much wasn’t so good after all…
I’ve decided to take it easy, although I want to practice more and do more fitness, since after nine days of not practicing, I feel I’ve become slow and weak. It’s funny, when you are playing at the top level, you don’t realize how fine your fitness, instincts and strength have to be.
I got a question from Lisa, and she writes:
I was wondering, how did your parents feel when you chose to turn pro rather than go to college, and how do they (especially mom) deal with you traveling all over the country/world? My son is 18 and is a senior graduating this year – he is starting his full-time training/tennis career after graduation (he, too, said it would be one or the other but not both!), and I know will be traveling A LOT this summer without me (up until now, we have traveled to most of his tournaments with him, and if not us, his coach has gone with him)!!! He’s our only child, and although I know he would probably be going off to college if he wasn’t doing this, I still feel like I am going to miss him so much and always wondering how he is, is he safe, is he well, etc. It’s a mom thing, I guess! Also, if you have any suggestions/tips I can tell him as he embarks on this “tennis adventure,” I would appreciate it!
When you wrote this to me, I was thinking about my mom, and I know exactly how you feel! So Lisa, well -- it’s kind of funny you’re asking me what I think because, really, I’m only two years older than your son! So I only have my slight experience to rely on. In my case, well, I was 16 when I started playing professional tournaments and 17 when I turned pro. Truthfully, I don’t think my parents managed it very well because this is not just about tennis -- it’s about letting your kids grow up and letting them go! Also, my dad was my coach, so his hold on me was more than that of a father and daughter.
To answer your first question, it was my parents who wanted me to turn pro, so that wasn’t the problem. I guess when I first encountered stress with my parents was when I didn’t want my father to coach me any more. It was extremely stressful for me because he was the only coach I had, and him not wanting to split with me caused extremely high tensions for a long time. My mom started traveling with me, so she was with me up until last year. So I guess the only experience I have that may help you is from the off season last year when I was on my own for training, and this year, when I started traveling to tournaments alone.
My mom has four children -- my brother, who is home, so at least she has one child at home! My eldest sister, Mindy, is at grad school at USC, so she is near home. Ivana is in Beijing, interning for Nike (I think my mom may have cried when she left, but I’m not sure since I wasn’t home), and me -- the baby -- was always off traveling but mostly with her. When I started going alone, I think she kind of felt that all the people she loved were leaving.
Since your son is your only child, I can totally understand you being worried -- after all, he is your only baby! I am happy for you that you realize that he is growing up and are accepting that he needs his space and will be traveling alone. Some parents just can’t let go (maybe one of my parents was like that…) but I forgot to add -- I KNOW that my parents only had my best interest at heart. It’s just sometimes what they think is best is not really what’s best. I think my father thought that if he could control me and all the aspects around me, he could make sure that nothing and no one could hurt me, and I couldn’t make the stupid mistakes young people make. However, it was so stressful for me, not really understanding why this felt frustrating and helpless and what to do if I really had to break free.
In terms of him -- well, if he’s traveled a lot before, he would know the basics of traveling. I kind of think that boys have an easier time adjusting to life on the road because it's more of an adventure to them. Since I don’t know his game and his level, I can’t exactly give good advice on his tennis. As a mom, it may be best to stick to the “mom stuff,” like reminding him to eat and sleep and try his best! While traveling, drink a lot, get there a few days before to practice on the courts, make sure he stretches and does his fitness to maintain his tennis and fitness level and to make sure he doesn’t get injured. Injury prevention is No. 1 when you get to the higher levels!
For you, though, I think he has to understand that it is difficult for you to go through this process, but I’m sure when he comes back, he will appreciate mom so much more! At least he will respect your domestic skills finally. Also, I think (because I’m so old and wise and worldly at 20) parenting is not a forever job. Your title and love holds forever, but once your child grows up, you can do the things you want to again. Having kids is a sacrifice (a nice one, but a sacrifice, nonetheless) of money, enjoyment, social life and time. Do things that you enjoy again! Have hobbies, enjoy your marriage, go out with friends! Don’t worry, he’ll never forget that mom is most important!
I hope this helps!
Read Vania's past blogs:
Back home in California
Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Fla.
BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif.
Monterrey Open in Monterrey, Mexico
Regions Morgan Keegan Championships & the Cellular South Cup in Memphis, Tenn.
Dow Corning Tennis Classic in Midland, Mich.