August 26, 2020
New York, New York, USA
E. MERTENS/J. Pegula
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Can you just talk through the match really quick? First of all, what did you see from her? She's kind of a lesser-known American player. What was your sense of her game? How were you able to get that done fairly quickly in just a little bit over an hour?
ELISE MERTENS: I think I started really well. Service was working. She's kind of a hard hitter, so I tried to put a lot of balls back in the court. But I think it was the key with depth so she couldn't make those strikes, those winning points.
So, yeah, I don't know. I managed it pretty well (smiling). I attacked her second serve. I think in the second set her first serve had more percentage so it was more difficult to break her. I lost just one point my service game.
But, yeah, I think she played better in the second set, less errors. Yeah, I think I played a pretty solid match (smiling).
Q. You have had such great success on the tour level especially at quieter tournaments. New York is normally not a quiet event or a quiet city but obviously very unique circumstances this year. From your perspective, has it felt a little bit easier for you mentally, I don't know, to kind of go about your business in New York without the fans, without the hoopla, without Manhattan, all these sorts of things?
ELISE MERTENS: Well, actually last year I stayed in Brooklyn. I didn't even go to Manhattan. I just like my own bubble, I would say, just hotel and tennis club. If you really do well, then you've got long days at the tennis club.
For me, I miss the crowd definitely, because I played here last year. I played here well, too. So I can play with the crowd.
But I'm also focused, and I think that's also a main thing, to stay focused, and I think I'm managing it well.
Q. Looking ahead, you'll play either Naomi or Anett. Can you talk about the challenges of playing each opponent?
ELISE MERTENS: Well, Anett played a lot of matches since the comeback of tennis, so I think she has a lot of confidence.
Yeah, it's going to be difficult either way, because Naomi can strike the ball really well, can get those angles in. Especially when her first serve is going, it's going to be difficult.
I think I will focus on my game what I can improve from this one to the next one. Yeah, try to stay focused and in the bubble.
Q. How are you holding up physically? Obviously you have played a lot of matches at this point, especially with the transition from clay onto hard and playing on a quicker surface. Physically, how are you feeling?
ELISE MERTENS: I mean, adapting from clay to hard was definitely a difficult one, especially the first day, because I practiced -- my first hard court practice was on Wednesday and I had to play on Sunday.
So for me that was kind of difficult, but I managed it well, playing against different opponents, different ball strikers. Yeah, trying to focus on myself a lot more than on my opponent.
But, yeah, I'm doing everything I can for a good quick recuperation. I have my physio here with me. That's all I can do.
Q. With everyone talking about the quicker conditions on the court, I'm wondering, for you as a player who, as you have always said, probably by default, would prefer to stay back a little bit and run and be defensive, do conditions like this, is it kind of easier to force yourself to be more aggressive and to play more aggressive because running just isn't going to be an option on this surface?
ELISE MERTENS: Yeah, you definitely have to push yourself to play aggressive all the time, because it's a really fast surface. It's faster than last year, definitely. But also, the balls stay lower. I mean, you really have to go in your legs and get those balls back, staying balanced, doing those, you know, if you're on the run.
I don't know what kind of surface I like the most. I think after a few days, I'm, like, oh, yeah, this is good, but I don't know, actually. But I try to adapt fast, and that's was I was trying to do.
Q. What would you say is the best about the way you're playing? What do you think you're doing best so far since the tour has returned?
ELISE MERTENS: Well, I try to get an advantage when I put my first serve in. Also, on these circumstances, it's good to stay low, especially also for the return in the game, also. But also the focus, I think I have an inner passion of tennis, so I try to stay focused.
But also just enjoy to compete again is a big thing after such a long time. It's just, you know, the mentality to go for every point and stay in the match.
Q. You were talking to Courtney about the idea of adapting, the transition from clay to hard here. I want to ask you about after the US Open and that very short turnaround from the hard courts of New York to the clay back in Europe and what you think the biggest challenge will be in that short turnaround both in terms of the surface change but also nobody is used to going from one Grand Slam tournament to another one that quickly, from New York to Paris.
ELISE MERTENS: Yeah, I think I have to look at it positively. I think the further you come here, the better. So if that means going into a second week of US Open, I can't complain.
But I try to look at match per match. It can always change. If it's going to be a fast, you know, adaptation, then it is what it is. And it's for everyone the same. I'm just really blessed that we can play tournaments again, so I try to look at it this way.
Q. Among the things we are all adjusting to these days is not having the same sort of human interaction or contact that we're used to. I'm curious what, for you, it's been like at the end of a match knowing you're not supposed to hug or shake the hand of your opponent.
ELISE MERTENS: Well, for me, it's actually fine. I mean, that's the circumstances we are dealing with. So I'm trying to adapt. Everybody's trying to adapt.
I think WTA, ITF, and everybody involved is doing a great job to keep us safe. If that's what it takes to play tournaments, then that's what it takes.
I'm feeling, you know, pretty safe. We are getting tested a lot of times a week, so I can't complain.
Q. A further question on court surface. Have you been able to practice on Ashe and Armstrong? Is it playing a little bit different than the main court for Cincinnati Grandstand?
ELISE MERTENS: I played one time on Ashe. I wouldn't say there is a big difference. I'm not sure, actually. I didn't really play points on Ashe, so I can't really say if it's faster or not. I just know that it's faster than last year.
I don't know if that's good or not. I just try to adapt, and you can't do anything about it if it doesn't suit you. I just try to look at it positively and try to focus and adapt on the surface.
Q. And the tennis balls, are they seeming the same from last year from what you remember or a little bit different?
ELISE MERTENS: I think it's just more like the court, that the ball bounce stays lower so you get more in your legs. I think that's the main thing. I don't know about the tennis balls. I think they are pretty the same, yeah.
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