D.aniela Hantuchova has just landed in London. Although the former world number 5 retired from tennis in 2017, his world tour continued as a commentator and was preparing to call the upcoming US Open for Amazon Prime after spending in bulk first in the US, then at house in Slovakia.
“It was so good to be with my friends, and it’s really something I haven’t done for 25 years!” she laughs as a car brought her from Heathrow Airport.
When the game was suspended for nearly six months, Hantuchova had time to expand a growing media empire, debuting on a YouTube channel in addition to an already planned podcast, The real DNA, which combine to invite the public to explore the life and lifestyle of the Slovak star.
“I go deeper on the podcast, I have more meaningful conversations. YouTube is more fun. I spend time with actress Zuzana Vackova and we cook together, involving all our friends. I’ve always had so many questions about my fitness routines, so I wanted to share those too. YouTube is the place where people can get to know me and the podcast is more about knowing my host. “
The real DNA it was first presented in mid-April and has released a steady stream of interviews in both English and Slovak, with intriguing guests from the tennis world that include current champions such as Garbiñe Muguruza, to other commentators such as Barbara Schett, and former Hantuchova coach Darren Cahill, who now works with reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep.
“It was great and so fulfilling, because my guests were all people I admired. I’ve learned so much just from talking to them, so I hope listeners can get the same amount of knowledge that I did. From a production standpoint, it was great to learn another aspect of my new professional life, which is media, from being in front of the camera. It helped me learn a lot about the logistics that goes with creating content, things like audio and editing. “
Hantuchova unveiled the sixteenth episode of the podcast over the weekend, one-on-one with champion hockey player Peter Bondra which was recorded in his new studio and filmed for an upcoming YouTube video.
“He and I are both from the same city and he won the world championships the same year our team won the Fed Cup in 2002, so he might be my most exciting guest!”
In between interviews, she returned to comment for the Top Seed Open presented by Bluegrass Orthopedics, impressed with both the level of play and the execution of a new tournament in unique circumstances.
“I don’t think people understand what it means to create an event in just four, five weeks, and with players who have been away for so long, I thought they would be more rusty at first. All the girls looked super fit, and I said many times during coverage last week that having Serena and Venus playing there, on a small, crowd-free pitch shows a lot of love they have for the game.
“When I was a player, I fed on the noise, the adrenaline and those huge stadiums. Sometimes, especially in my junior days when people weren’t watching, I almost couldn’t care less, because I really loved the support from the fans. I think I would be fighting out there right now, but they have created a beautiful example for the rest of the players, from all the challenges they have faced. “
Hantuchova has often proved to be a tough opponent for both Williams sisters, defeating Serena at the 2006 US Open and pushing her to three thrilling sets the following year at Wimbledon, and marvels at the American’s ability to adapt to the changing field in nearly three decades on tour.
“It’s absolutely a different formula for beating Serena now than when I played her. She is a great champion who continues to evolve and improve with the game. Some things might have worked against her then, but she’s a much better player now, so opponents have to find different ways to beat her. The sport has become a lot more physical, so it may still have to adjust to the fact that players are more able to be with her, while she may have been able to hit them off the pitch in the past.
“Ultimately, she’s a great champion, and that’s what I admire about her and Venus – they just get better over time. Personally, knowing how much effort she made, I’d like to see her win. “
While Williams won’t experience the electricity that a wealthy Arthur Ashe Stadium can provide, Hantuchova sees the quieter vibe as one that can benefit the American as she aims for the seventh US Open title.
“For those who might feel the pressure or the expectation, it might be good that the crowd isn’t there, and yes, it will be difficult for players to stay and eat in the same places, but that’s usually how we always are.! like to go to the same restaurants and stick to the same routines, so that way it won’t change much, except it might not be the place you chose. It may be a boring routine, but it’s something players and teams often choose to have in most tournaments under normal circumstances “.
Another of his contemporaries and Williams will be in action at the US Open as Kim Clijsters plans to play her first major tournament since 2012 and predicts the block could provide the Belgian with an unexpected advantage.
“Kim is the one who makes me wonder if I should be on the pitch instead of in the studio. I am so happy for her. It’s a great story and I hope he does the best he can. I just hope he can stay injury-free because obviously sport is very demanding on the body. With the block and everyone away, it seems like everyone is starting from the beginning. For players who have been away due to injuries or retirements, they want that training for the match, but now all the players are in the same boat. “
Taking everything into consideration from the comment booth, Hantuchova, who has labeled teenager Cori “Coco” Gauff as one to watch among youngsters, combines her technical approach to tennis with a closeness to her former playmates that provides an unexpected emotional component to her analysis. .
“I analyzed a lot during my games, which, perhaps while playing them, wasn’t that great!” he jokes as he takes the luggage out of the car. “I definitely feel the benefits of thinking so much in my matches as a commentator, and I really try to stay in the present moment and react to matches as they happen.
“Plus I haven’t been away for that long, so everything still feels a little fresh. At the same time, I feel obliged to defend all my players because I remember what it was like. You remember when a commentator was hard on you as a player and you’re trying to do your best out there. If a player misses an easy ball, I try to explain the conditions that could have caused it – be it the wind, the sun, the pressure they might be under at that point in a match – to help spectators understand. “
Her busiest two weeks in months were upon her, but Hantuchova, analyst, host, influencer, remained at ease, employing an old adage about what makes time fly.
“People point out how busy I’ve been over the past couple of months, and that might be true when it comes to the weather, but it’s hard to think it all works out because of how fun it’s been.”