02 Mother’s Finest

Paola Scetti hurried down the palm-lined path that led to the lawn behind Brisbane’s Queensland Tennis Centre. Contrary to what players and colleagues said, she was not always late. That was an exaggeration she had proven wrong on a booze-soaked night last October in Tokyo.In a superhuman effort she had worked out her arrival stats which undeniably verified that her interview delays were at 73%, while her delays for press conferences were only at 68%. Of course, her colleagues had argued that “always” was an elastic term – but once again were proven wrong in a linguistics battle. They seemed to be completely unaware of the fact that she had studied English literature for a semester and a half. The successful wager had won her 10.000 yen which were spent on more sake bottles than she cared to be reminded of. Being the nice Austrian girl she was known for she had shared the bottles with the sore losers. Today, she’d probably make her interview delay stat go up some points. She was late for an exclusive chat with the No. 1 player in the world, Carola Gnocchi.

Four years ago, Paola had just started working for Supersport channel and one of her first assignments was to interview the French Open Junior Champion Carola Gnocchi from Germany. She remembered being surprised by the head-strong girl with the inconvenient Italian name. The 16-year old talent seemed unfazed by the media attention her win had stirred in her home country. In their interview she came across a plain teenager with no other interests than her sport. Then again, at times her answers were quite brazen for a youngster. However, in a quiet moment the girl had admitted that being called like little dumplings was no fun in school. She was glad when she finally was able to join the tour full-time.

When she was 14 years old she had left Germany and moved to Florida with her parents to attend Rick Salieri’s famous Tennis academy. In only a few years he had molded her into a formidable player with a bright future. Her game was consistent. Stunning, not so much. It was a popular joke among the commentators that a winner from Carola’s racquet was to be considered a once in a lifetime experience. But the young player was mounting the silverware more than any other girl on tour and by the end of 2010, only weeks after her 20th birthday, had reached her career high ranking of Word No. 1.

Coming down the path Paola spotted Lars, her camera man, who was waiting in the shadow of a  tree. He smoked a cigarette watching a photographer snapping shots of Carola Gnocchi wearing  a white summer dress. Alongside Carola were three other girls Paola recognized as the rest of the German Fed Cup team – Stephanie Moeller, Angela Porovski and Elise Renard. They were all promising tennis players, and all being still young the team had good chances to make a mark for years to come. It was a good sign, Paola concluded, to see Elise among the group. It could mean that Henny Hellmann, the German Fed cup captain had re-nominated the shy, but always smiley German-French girl after she had been missing most of last year due to knee injuries. Joining Lars under the palm tree Paola waved to Carola, who responded with a regal nod. She had adjusted quickly to her new status as the queen of the WTA.