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August 24, 2017

Elise Mertens

New Haven, Connecticut

THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.

Q. Thoughts on the match (laughter)?
ELISE MERTENS: Well, yeah (smiling). No thoughts.

Q. Were you just out hitting? Were you on the practice courts when you found out?
ELISE MERTENS: No, I actually just found out when I was at the physio. But, of course, it's not the way you want to win. But, I mean, I played a lot of matches already. So one day off can't hurt.

Yeah, I'm happy I'm through to the semifinals. I hope she will recover well for US Open.

Q. How do you feel physically? You mentioned a day off is not a bad thing. Are you feeling okay?
ELISE MERTENS: I'm feeling pretty okay, yeah. I still have a lot of energy. No pain. So I'm feeling good actually.

But, you know, I played qualifying, so I had to play every day. So a day off can't hurt. So I'm happy that I'm through. But, yeah...

Q. Not a lot of qualifiers get to make it to the semifinals in the main draw. Talk about what this has been like, this experience for you, the match experience. Getting used to winning a little bit?
ELISE MERTENS: Well, of course, I love to win. But, yeah, it's been an amazing experience. I mean, I started last week on Friday, and I'll still here. That was, like, my dream, you know, to keep winning, to keep playing level, just to be in the tournament.

Yeah, I'm really happy that it's in New Haven.

Q. Curious growing up where you did, with Kim and Justine. Is that something that really motivated the younger generation of tennis players? You had two Hall of Famers that put tennis on the map like that.
ELISE MERTENS: Yeah, definitely. I know Kim and Justine. Like, I know Kim personally. I practiced at her academy. So she send me some messages, Good luck or anything.

But definitely when I was younger, I was watching TV. So, yeah, she was playing amazing. Justine also. I mean, both No. 1. That's incredible.

I mean, that was also my motivation, to be as good as them, of course. So I'm really happy that, yeah, I got through and I'm still playing.

Q. What has she told you? What advice has she given you?
ELISE MERTENS: Just the basic things, mentally staying strong, fight for every point. Just do what you do best. Your positive points, work on your negative points. And relax, of course, too.

Q. Two players from your country playing for the semifinals today. What does that mean? That used to happen a lot when they were playing. What does it mean to have both of you doing so well here?
ELISE MERTENS: Well, I mean, Kirsten is playing amazing this week, also through qualifying. Played two times Fed Cup this year. One time she was also there. We have really good bond. We're, like, friends on and off court.

So I'm really happy for her.

Q. Are you a new wave of role models for Belgian tennis or do you not look that far ahead right now?
ELISE MERTENS: Not really. Of course, I want to. I mean, if I can inspire younger kids to play tennis, to do sports, I mean, that would be great.

But, yeah, for now I think I'm rolling into the top 100 this year, so I hope to keep being in the top 100. Yeah, I'm hoping that I can inspire some people.

Q. Is there pressure with that? People are used to winning tournaments from your country. Have you felt any pressure?
ELISE MERTENS: No, not at all, no. I mean, if I look at my messages, even Facebook, they're so positive. Even if you lose, You can do it, great job, there is another tournament next week. Belgian people are really positive that way, yeah.

Q. Are you really embraced at home or do people not quite recognize you and know who you are yet?
ELISE MERTENS: I mean, in my city they do. Out of the city, it's still okay. I mean, but I'm happy that it's that way.

But, of course, it comes when you're playing good and you're more in the picture. So, yeah, but for me I don't really mind if people ask me for an autograph or a photo, so...

Q. How beneficial has Kim's academy been for the younger players?
ELISE MERTENS: Yeah, I'm already practicing there for almost three years. Really happy there. It's 15 minutes from my home, so I can drive every day, and be home actually. That's the really important point for me.

Q. Did you watch a lot of them in their glory days?
ELISE MERTENS: I did, definitely. Of course, if they were at the Australian Open, I didn't really look at the matches, with the time difference. But if I could, yeah, definitely.

Q. What were you thinking when you were watching, say, when they were playing each other for a Grand Slam title?
ELISE MERTENS: Oh, that was nerve-wracking.

They were really good players. They still are. I mean, if Kim is playing, she can hit the ball as good as before, so...

Wow, yeah.

Q. Your thoughts on getting the walk-through, moving on? Can this be a big advantage for you? What will you do in your off time now?
ELISE MERTENS: Yeah, well, I didn't expect it to be in a semifinals, of course. Still also playing doubles. So it's a really good week for me.

I'm really happy about my level and the way I played matches. So I'm confident. I was happy to play today, but of course, with her injury, of course you like to win but not that way. So I wish her a speedy recovery.

Also I'm ready for tomorrow. I'm really looking forward to it.

Q. Do you do a full match-type preparation now? Do you go on the practice courts and hit longer because you were expecting to play more tennis today?
ELISE MERTENS: Not really. I think I already played a lot of hours in the past days. So a little bit of rest, yeah, well-deserved.

Q. Are you where you want to be right now in your career? 21, again, breaking into that top 100. That was your goal, right?
ELISE MERTENS: Yes, for this year it was.

Q. Are you ahead of schedule? Are you just very pleased with where you are? How would you describe it?
ELISE MERTENS: Yeah, I think I'm very pleased where I am right now. Of course, I'm not top 50, and that's another goal. But for now I think the most important thing is to keep it consistent, my level, to keep a balance. Don't just look ahead and say, Oh, I want to be top 20 soon. Everything is possible, but to be realistic, too.

Q. Since you have the unexpected time, will you watch some of the match if you can, the upcoming match?
ELISE MERTENS: Yeah, I think I will watch a little bit. Of course, not in the heat. But, yeah, I'm going to try to watch a little bit.

Q. You say everything is possible. Are you on the track to No. 1, whether it's one year from now, five years from now?
ELISE MERTENS: Well, so as my goal was top 100 this year, and I reached it in January. So, you know, everything is possible, I say. If you keep your own level, if you believe in yourself, then everything is possible.

Q. Why did you reach it so quickly, other than consistency? Is there some part of your game you really lifted up this year?
ELISE MERTENS: Well, I guess last year, I started more WTA tournaments. So my level -- you have to keep your level up with those players. I mean, they play good every day.

So, yeah, I think consistency was a big thing for me. And, of course, my improvements. I worked on the serve, on playing aggressive. So I think that's, yeah, an advantage now.

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