Keep the ball flat! This is as unthinkable for professional tennis player Andrea Petkovic as it is for Barbara. An exchange of blows about the strange feeling of being slowed down.
by Stephan Bartels
Barbara: Andrea, we are at the end of an, let's say: extraordinary year. One question in particular comes to mind.
Andrea: Which ones?
Did you make a lot of Zoom calls in 2020?
Well, yes. That was the really big Corona innovation in my life: all these tools for distant communication. Not with you
I haven't even downloaded Zoom yet.
I had to. In addition, Microsoft Teams, Skype … Somehow there was always something to discuss with someone. And I don't even have a job. Imagine if I was really working!
That is very much an understatement. You still play tennis full-time, work as a presenter for ZDF and write books. In fact, you're actually a multi-jobber.
You can of course see it that way, and that's true, I need all these platforms for that. I meant rather: It's all very free, I'm not firmly integrated into structures, and it doesn't always feel like work. And when the lockdown started, my main occupation was also on hold.
No tennis tournaments were held anywhere in the world.
But I felt that was a lucky stroke of luck. I had a knee operation in February. That should take me out of circulation for three months. I thought: Great, now I'm not the only one who's on my backside and can't collect world ranking points.
Conditionally. At some point I was fit again, but there were still no tournaments …
From today's perspective, I think that's totally crazy: our idea back then how long Corona will last. I remember that when the lockdown began in March, an event for June was canceled. Then I hit the ceiling, I thought they were crazy! I never thought at the beginning of this story that it would keep us busy all year round.
And not just this.
Unfortunately, that's true. In retrospect, I was pretty naive, I think.
Me too. I thought it would take about two weeks.
And then the summer came.
And we thought: what should be? No more trace of Corona!
But there were still no concerts and no football fans.
Didn't we find that too cautious? It felt like it was all over in July. And I would ascribe this feeling to our inexperience with pandemics, because the experts had never left any doubt that there was still a lot to come. You were right.
We have actually become victims of our selective perception, I've learned that.
I learned new words. Hygiene precautions. Distance rules. And I would never have thought that I would include "shock ventilation" in my active language.
I already knew that from my mother, in word and deed. The first thing she still does today when she comes into my house: open all the windows. It was like this before Corona.
But at least burst ventilation is something that the virus has given a deeper meaning. And sometimes the lockdown made for total deceleration. No plane was in the sky in spring …
… hardly any cars on the streets.
Do you know what FOMO means?
Uh … yes, wait: Fear Of Missing Out. The fear of missing out.
I agree. How relieving the lockdown must have been for all these FOMOs!
Right. Because there was nothing to miss for them.
Everything was tight! And the truth is: it suited me very well. Like you, I lead a colorful, exciting life. For a while I was pretty glad I had nowhere to go.
And how did the rest of your family deal with it?
More difficult. Children get used to everything quickly, but all in all we're quite a buzz. There must always be something going on, something always going on. It was tough at first, but in the end it was also good to relax a little. And you?
I also had to go down first, in the early phase I had quite a bumblebee in my butt. I totally missed the constant travel. But then I found it nice to spend time with my family. I even moved in with my parents for a short time, the knee operation was my excuse. But at some point it was good again.
Incidentally, this is also a virus consequence for me: I'll be gone again quickly.
How do you mean?
Recently, I've been taking every opportunity to say goodbye to meetings earlier. With people I used to sit with for half an hour longer. I don't go to the hotel bar for a nightcap after a gig. It has leveled off this year, and part of me regrets it.
But obviously that's a part of you that you just live out more now. What do you regret about that?
The general isolation. You know, at the beginning we thought we'd all move closer together, something like a new sense of solidarity arises. I don't believe in that anymore. And my own withdrawal is a kind of symbol for me.
But wasn't it more because people in general suddenly questioned their private systems?
Exactly, that was the consequence of the standstill. Suddenly people noticed: Yikes, I don't have the right partner with whom I can share all of this. No children. No friends. It was only then that so many realized that they were leading a life that did not suit them at all. Did you miss something
Just New York, my favorite city where a lot of my friends live. Otherwise nothing, but Corona has therefore had a different effect on me: I now really appreciate what I have.
Me too. I live the life I want to live
Suck! But just suppose it goes on now. So: lockdown to lockdown, full braking again and again, you baked all the yeast stashed in spring in bread, the family is still hyperactive …
And that's what I'm scared of. The thing is: I can live well without my job, even though it's the greatest in the world. But I'm not good when I'm under-challenged. I will become a very comfortable, narrow-minded housewife. My husband is of great help with his urge to act. It always takes me out of my comfort zone. Oh, and something else that Corona changed …
N / A?
I feel old. When I get up from the sofa, I often ask myself: Has that always pinched it back there? Or the other day on the toilet at NDR: That was the first time I hit a trash can with my bottom that had actually always been next to the bowl. Then I looked in panic to see if it had been postponed a bit.
He was. Thank God. But the feeling was there: I could watch my body decline and expand.
Okay, admittedly: At 33 years of age, I cannot serve that. But for that I suddenly appreciate things that have always been absolutely stuffy for me.
I drank a glass of wine in the evening, exactly one. I suddenly went for a walk. And baked.
Your new narrow-mindedness already points a little way into the future. Let's talk about 2021.
Actually, 2020 should have been your last as a tennis player after 16 years as a professional.
That's true. But nothing came of it, that's why 2021 will be my lap of honor.
But you have already set your professional future on the rails. You work for ZDF, you've written a really great literary book … With the uncertain prospect of next year, don't you feel the impulse to say: Well, that's it, thanks for the great time?
There were actually two such moments. One was in October when my book was published. People liked it, it went down very well, and suddenly I saw a future as a writer before me.
And the second?
That was around the same time. That's when my friend Julia Görges, who is a year younger than me, stopped playing professional tennis. I have called you. She sounded so happy and at peace with herself about this decision that I started pondering for myself. Something in me would be so far, definitely. But I also still felt the other in me. This lust for tennis and tournaments and the life that goes with it.
Incidentally, I am very impressed that you have two such extraordinary talents. What you can do, what you do! Crazy!
Well, being able and doing are still two very different things.
You made it to ninth place in the world rankings, and the book is great, I have empirically proven that through reading. When did you realize that writing was something for you?
Early. I've always loved to write. But sometimes forget that in between.
The other day I was doing something for the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" and the editor said to me: Do you remember that you wrote a tour diary for us when you were 18? Then I have "Huh?" said. Until I remembered. But hey: what's up with you next year?
Andrea, very clear answer: I don't know. And why? Because nobody knows how the shit will go on. My mother-in-law will be 80, just like that. But where do we celebrate? Berlin? Not possible if only two households are allowed to be involved. Austria? But what about quarantine and entry? This prospect of the unknown is precisely my view of the future. Can you do something with that?
In a different way. I've been wondering for a long time whether I actually want to have children.
Do you want? I know that.
Yeah, me too, actually. But in this world? In these times?
You still want to play tennis anyway. And then write. And on TV! What was the plan again?
I already present the "Sportreportage" on ZDF from time to time, which is the Sunday sports program on the second. But in the long term I would like to travel and, for example, conduct interviews on the sidelines or on the track. I have to get out somehow, I have to go into the world!
Is it important to you to have a plan for afterwards?
For after tennis?
Yes, yes. If there wasn't a pillow to fall into … Difficult, I need it soft. I just ask myself: if I do a new job that is public again – won't people get enough of me at some point?
We'll tell you that. And then you always have an alternative.
Oh yes. Right. The thing with the kids. How could I forget that again?
STEPHAN BARTELSAnyone who listened to this conversation and wrote it down is already looking forward to 2021 because it is no longer 2020.
ANDREA PETKOVIC was born in Tuzla in 1987, shortly afterwards her Bosnian-Serbian parents emigrated with her to Germany. She started playing tennis at the age of six, has won six tournaments on the WTA Tour to date and was in the top 10 of the world rankings. Her literary debut "Between fame and honor lies the night" (KiWi) is a completely different hit.
We would like to thank The WOW! Gallery Berlin, www.thewowgallery.de and Adidas!