When Andrea Petkovic last played at the French Open three years ago everyone wanted to talk about her post-victory celebrations. After reaching the quarter-finals here yesterday the 26-year-old German said the “Petko Dance” had been consigned to history. Instead she spoke about her admiration for the writing of Goethe and Nietzsche, Sartre and Camus.
There are few characters in the sport as multidimensional as Petkovic, who is through to the last eight thanks to a 1-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory over Kiki Bertens. A political science student who lists the people she most admires as “Goethe (genius in writing) and Che Guevara (genius in fighting)”, Petkovic talks about forming her own political party and of becoming a journalist. She has recorded music with her friends, playing drums and guitar, and attracted a cult following for her off-the-wall video blog under her online “Petkorazzi” persona.
It is a wonder that Petkovic also found time to become a successful tennis player, though the German has had a hard time since reaching her career-high position of No 9 in the world three years ago. Back, ankle and knee injuries kept her off the court for such long periods that she explored other options, gaining work experience with newspapers and politicians. Over the last 12 months, however, she has rebuilt her tennis career, climbing 109 places back to No 27 in the world rankings.
“Exactly one year ago here, when I lost in the second round of qualifying, I was very close to quitting,” Petkovic said. “I just didn’t like playing any more. I hated it. I was putting so much pressure on myself to get back where I had been.
“I was used to being a top 10 player. When I came back, I wasn’t. My footwork was off, my strokes were bad, my serve was bad. I hated it. That’s why I wanted to stop. After that I won a tournament, luckily, so I didn’t [stop] and I kept doing what I did. Now I’m here and it’s a nice reward.”
Petkovic said she had given up the dancing because it had “got out of hand” and because she was older. “I’m moving towards my thirties,” she smiled. “You can’t be dancing any more when you’re 30.”
Instead Petkovic answered questions about her two favourite authors, Goethe (“for me the greatest genius with words”) and David Foster Wallace (“I’m totally amazed by him”), and her favourite philosophers. “Friedrich Nietzsche is the one that impressed me most,” she said. “I actually really like the existentialists in French. I read a lot of Sartre and Camus.”
When the subject returned to tennis, Petkovic accused a reporter of sexism for suggesting that Bertens had suffered “a bit of a mental breakdown after the first set” which “seems to happen a lot in female tennis”.
Petkovic now faces Sara Errani, who beat the world No 7, Jelena Jankovic, 7-6, 6-2. Simona Halep, the world No 4, is the highest-ranked woman left in the competition. The 22-year-old Romanian, watched by her fellow countryman Ilie Nastase, beat Sloane Stephens 6-4, 6-3.