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August 31, 2011

Irina Falconi


I. FALCONI/D. Cibulkova
2-6, 6-3, 7-5

THE MODERATOR: First question, please.

Q. You got Arthur Ashe. What were your thoughts when you realized you would be playing on a show court?
IRINA FALCONI: When one of the WTA supervisors pulled me aside and told me I was going to play on Ashe, I needed to go outside and get some fresh air, for sure (smiling).

Q. Must have been pretty exciting once you got in there. Crowd seemed to really be behind you.
IRINA FALCONI: Absolutely. Absolutely. People always ask, What's it like for a player to be playing on Arthur Ashe? You really can't explain it. There are no words, for sure.

Q. After the match you waved the American flag. I've never seen that before.
IRINA FALCONI: It's a year of firsts (smiling).

Q. That's true. What did you hope to convey by doing that?
IRINA FALCONI: I've heard so much about media talking about American tennis, and I really wanted to portray that there's a huge wave of American players. I have an American coach and trainer, Jeff and Kim Wilson.
I strongly believe in all that is USA, and I wanted to represent it and show the world that it's coming. It's coming. No need to wait any longer.

Q. Whose idea was that?
IRINA FALCONI: It was totally out of instinct. I have the flag in my bag. It's a good luck flag that was given to me by my trainer, Kim Wilson. I really felt that it couldn't have been a more perfect time.

Q. According to your bio, you were born in Ecuador. When did you move to the United States?
IRINA FALCONI: When I was three years old I moved to New York, so my entire childhood was in New York. That's where I learned how to play tennis. So US Open really holds a special place in my heart.

Q. Did you go to the Open when you were a kid all these years?
IRINA FALCONI: Yes, yes. I would go with my parents. It was just such a dream at the time. I wished every single day to be able to play on Arthur Ashe. Here I am today.

Q. When did you move out of New York to Atlanta?
IRINA FALCONI: When I was 14 we moved to Florida. It was to really play more tennis. Then I went to Georgia Tech after that.

Q. What part of New York?
IRINA FALCONI: Manhattan. Washington Heights.

Q. That third set, you were down Love-3. Then what happened?
IRINA FALCONI: You tell me (laughter).
My team and I just always talk about belief. That's the one thing that I did not let up today. Could have been 6-0, 5-0, but I knew I had to fight for every single point. Dominika is such a fighter. I knew she wasn't going to give it to me.
In the third set, I thought to myself, This is now or never. I just started really zoning in on what I had to do to win every single point and it paid off.

Q. What about the last point when you were heading straight for the chair ump?
IRINA FALCONI: Yeah, I wanted to shake her hand before (laughter). No.
Yeah, honestly I don't think she thought I was going to get there. When I got there, I totally just sheer instinct, Let's just do that shot. I don't think that's really something you can teach. It was such an instinctive shot and I went for it, and it worked out.

Q. You mentioned your team and your coach. Is your coach a woman, Kim?
IRINA FALCONI: My tennis coach is Jeff Wilson and my trainer is Kim Wilson. They're a couple; they're married. I couldn't have asked for a better combination.
They've been with me for a year. I met those two and a half years ago. I wouldn't be here without 'em, for sure.

Q. What's it like having a female coach on your team or hitting partner? Do you think she gives you some insight into the women's game?
IRINA FALCONI: Absolutely. I think both of them as a combination, it's just perfect. She really helps me with my fitness and nutrition. My coach takes care of the tennis. When you put those two things together, there's belief that makes that bubble just work.
That's why I'm here sitting right now.

Q. Are you surprised there aren't more female coaches in the game?
IRINA FALCONI: I've never really thought about it. Never really thought about it. But, yeah, I've been blessed with two very special people that really believe in my game, yeah.

Q. You said yesterday that your folks are still down in Florida. Have you had them book a flight or are you going to keep them down there for good luck?
IRINA FALCONI: You guys probably found out I was playing on Ashe the same time I found out I was playing on Ashe, so I don't think I gave them enough time to get on a flight and head over here.

Q. For your next match?
IRINA FALCONI: Yeah, hopefully.

Q. When you came to the Open, who did you like to watch? What players do you like to watch now?
IRINA FALCONI: Steffi. Steffi was my idol. Just her work ethic and just her determination, her class, her professionalism. That's what I strive for every single day.
Who I like to watch now? I mean, it's all good tennis. It's all good tennis. You can be on Court 8, you can be on center court, and you're still going to get unbelievable tennis no matter where you are.

Q. What was your reaction to the fans to you?
IRINA FALCONI: It was unreal. It was unreal. Right after the match, I just turned to my coach, Jeff and Kim Wilson. I couldn't believe it. I needed a couple seconds to really grasp that I had just won a match at Arthur Ashe, yeah. It's unreal.

Q. We're obviously in a little bit of a lull in terms of women's tennis in this country.
IRINA FALCONI: Not anymore.

Q. You're tired of hearing that. You spoke about belief in your game. What is your belief in your own game? How high do you think you can go in this terribly competitive game?
IRINA FALCONI: I don't really think there's a limit. I've been told that I'm 5'4", in case you didn't know. One thing I did go in there today knowing was that I was taller than my opponent, which was huge.
I know Justine Henin, she was 5'6" and she was 1 in the world. I know for a fact if she can do it, why not?

Q. With Venus dropping out today, is that a little bit of disappointment potentially because you could have faced her maybe the next round or the round after that?
IRINA FALCONI: It would have been the next round. I think Sabine Lisicki is a very, very good player. It would have been tough to play either of them. But I'm kind of sad and I'm disappointed that Venus had to pull out.
But I hope she gets better, for what it's worth.

Q. How do you prepare for Lisicki?
IRINA FALCONI: How do you prepare for Lisicki? Scouting. My coach and I are definitely going to do some scouting, watch some video, some footage. She's been doing really well. She's a really good player.
It's just one match today. Got to prepare already for the next match.

Q. You saw that Christina McHale won her match as well. Talking about the Americans being here, I know you are friends; what does it mean to have you both win your second-round matches?
IRINA FALCONI: I think the fact that her and I both have New York roots, we're from up here, it's just unbelievable. She's a great girl. I was cheering for her the entire time. I was so pumped to see that she was just -- you know, she took the flag before me and I just showed it to everyone, so, yeah, I'm just so excited for her.

Q. Do you consider yourself a New Yorker?
IRINA FALCONI: Absolutely.

Q. Biggest arena you played in before? Did you ever steal a look up to the ozone seats?
IRINA FALCONI: Biggest arena has to be Arthur Ashe.

Q. Before Ashe.
IRINA FALCONI: It was probably Charleston, Family Circle Cup stadium. Nothing compared to Ashe. When I walked in, I was trying to distract everyone that I was drinking water, but I was looking at my environment and really just adapting to what was about to happen.
Yeah, I definitely took a second to really look at my surroundings.

Q. Was it, Oh, my God? What was your take?
IRINA FALCONI: It was more like, Let's get it on, let's go, yeah.

Q. Had you been in there before?
IRINA FALCONI: Oddly enough, we were there this morning watching Bondarenko versus Zvonareva. It was total luck that my coach, Jeff, decided, Let's go in there for a second. I was in there, And I was just, Oh, okay, this is Arthur Ashe.
I had been in there before, but it was just odd that we had been inside the stadium that morning and found out I was going to play. I got a taste of it this morning.

Q. Did the cross thought your mind you were literally being picked to replace Venus Williams?
IRINA FALCONI: Not at all.

Q. You recently turned 21. Do you have plans on celebrating anytime soon?
IRINA FALCONI: Tournament's not over yet. There's still five other matches to be won. There's still doubles and mixed. So this is definitely a fortnight. It's not over yet. I'm just so excited. My team and I are just so excited for what's to come.

Q. How would you celebrate?
IRINA FALCONI: How would I celebrate? Probably some nice New York pizza, slice of pizza, with some Ben and Jerrys. Can't get any more perfect than that.

Q. Do you keep the flag in your bag every match?
IRINA FALCONI: Every match.

Q. How long have you had it for?
IRINA FALCONI: Since I turned pro.

Q. Did you think at the time you were a student at Georgia Tech you were ever going to be soon play with the star of the tennis in America, Serena Williams?
IRINA FALCONI: I've had many people come up to me and tell me they've actually had dreams of me playing on Ashe against Serena. It was always a thought that was very distant.
But it could be a potential matchup soon. So, yeah, it would be great playing Serena. She was also an idol when I was growing up. That would be surreal.

Q. Did you watch when you were four or five years old when Steffi Graf was a champion?
IRINA FALCONI: Yes, I was only four years old when I started playing. Just seeing Martina Hingis and Steffi and Seles just tearing it up just really made me want to continue tennis and pursue it and make it a dream come true.

Q. How about Gabriela Sabatini?
IRINA FALCONI: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Q. I know you like to blog. I've seen a lot of your written work. Are you writing currently during this tournament? If you write about today, what would you write, maybe the first line?
IRINA FALCONI: Living the dream. That would be the first line. I haven't actually been blogging for this tournament. There's been a lot going on outside of the court that we have to take care of. There's definitely some superstition now. I don't think I'm going to blog now since I haven't been blogging.
Maybe after the tournament's over, I'll just write a ton. So we'll see.

Q. How old were you when you moved to Florida?

Q. Where is home now?
IRINA FALCONI: Alpharetta, Georgia.

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