Thirty-seven years of age and still the smile of a newbie at her first event, Tamarine Tanasugarn has never lost her joy on the tennis courts, even during the difficult past seasons of injuries, and now she is planning to comeback as strong as ever.
In 2008, at the age of 31 she amazed the world with one of her best seasons, capturing her first grand slam quarter finals’ appearance at Wimbledon, right after winning a title on the Dutch grass of Den Bosch beating the world number 1 Dinara Safina in the final.
Six years later, she dropped out of the top 450 in the world, but she still enjoys every moment out there and she said not to be ready for calling a career.
“I guess it’s me, I like to challenge myself, you know, and especially now at my age, right now, it’s more challenging with my body,” she told me. “You know, the girls right now are a lot stronger, physically as well… it’s really more challenging and I like to do that. So, I keep enjoying the challenge and, you know, see how can I cope with this, you know.”
“Right now I’m just enjoying my tennis, but I don’t really plan, like, two or three years ahead,” she admitted with an excited voice. “So, most important thing, I hope I’ll be injury free… so right now I’m kinda like enjoying it all… but you know, every day has to be ‘improve, improve, and doing better’.”
At the age of 37 and in a sport where girls are often breaking through in their teen years, she often plays against opponent that can potentially have half her age.
But she takes even this detail with a relaxed and positive attitude.
“When that happens, actually, I am, you know like, ‘wow! She’s young’,” she said with a warm smile. “But luckily I don’t really pay attention to the numbers of the age, because, you know, I like challenging with their styles, you know, cause every girl has a different style,.
“I’m looking more at the game instead of, you know, who I’m playing or something like that, so I think it feels good for me if I don’t concentrate on their age but enjoy the tennis.”
Having been for many years one of the few faces of Thai tennis, she is now enjoying the company of up and coming girls.
“It’s good, you know, they are such amazing girls, both of them, like Noppawan (Lertchewakaarn) and Kumkhum,” she said. “They are very nice girls and we are in the same FedCup team together. They are great and they are fun, you know, and I’m kind of happy because during my time I was the only one, me and also Paradorn (Srichapan), one of each side, you know, women and men, so it was kinda like not fun to travel alone with none speaking the same language, from the same nation.
“But now we are more girls with talent, so it’s kinda more fun, we hang out together, go out for dinner. It’s more fun and they are nice, you know, we are like sisters and we are pretty close, yeah.”
Tammy has been a very accomplished player on grass and fast courts in general, thanks to her flat strokes and low balls, she welcomed very positively the news that from 2015 the grass season will be one week longer.
“Definitely it is very good to have a longer grass court season,” she admitted. “And I was like ‘well, I wished that it could have been earlier, when I was, you know, like in a good shape’.
“But anyway, it’s very great for tennis cause we have longer clay courts’ season and longer hard courts’ season, so it should be longer on grass to be, how to say…equal. I know it’s kinda tough because French Open and Wimbledon are close, but it’s a good news, so, you know like, it’s a beginning to have one week longer grass season.
“It’s already, you know, a good start, so I don’t know maybe it might have more longer season or maybe more tournaments in those three weeks before.”
It comes as no surprise then that her favorite tournament of the year happens at the end of these soon extended three weeks, in London.
“Wimbledon. Yeah, because I’ve always kinda done well there, in that Grand Slam,” she added trying to contain her smiles. “I think the organizers and the people… it’s very very nice. They don’t really go for the big names, you know, they look for the tennis game, they cheer for underdogs.”
“I love that atmosphere because some places are just like, you know, ‘oh, big names’, so they go for the big names.
“Anyway, it’s overall great as in London there is summer-sale as well and there’s good shopping in the city, so it’s everything in the same week. So I think I’m always enjoying Wimbledon for different reasons.”
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This year she did not manage to enter the Wimbledon draw, but this is only a motivation to try harder for the next season.
“For sure, you know, because at the end of last year I didn’t play much in singles, so I dropped my rank a bit, so my next challenge is, you know, to be back to the top100 again with my singles.
“I know it’s not easy but it’s really challenging and it is exciting to do that again, yeah, of course, you know, either way, singles and doubles, cope with my rankings in top100 again.”
It is an ambitious goal for her, when her best ranking, at number 19 in the world, arrived 12 years ago. But she is not afraid of trying.
“Just don’t underestimate me with the age. The age is nothing so I try to enjoy and have fun in the court though. But actually I have Kimiko Date as my idol so… if she is still fighting I can still play too!”