CoCo Vandeweghe gets the work-life balance on tour just about right

CoCo Vandeweghe
CoCo Vandeweghe
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By Kevin Anderson

Glamour, exhilarating excitement, media attention and lots of highs? Or an endless string of airports and hotel rooms? It’s all in the mix for the tennis stars.

Devonshire Park this week will be filled with young, vibrant, talented sportsmen and women from all over the globe. Wondering about that mix, though, I set off in search of a player’s view of that exciting, demanding life with a suitcase in one hand and a racquet bag in the other. And I tracked down CoCo Vandeweghe.

Just to be clear: CoCo isn’t whinging. You can tell in just a few minutes’ conversation that she is in love with the life. Young, vibrant and talented is a description that nicely fits the 25-year-old Calfornian who is nudging her way into the WTA top twenty, and who will grace the Eastbourne Aegon this week with her powerful game and entertaining presence, both on and off the court.

Vandeweghe is lady who speaks her mind – not always controversially, just with a freshness and openness. When we caught up, she was recovering from an all-too-early exit from the s-Hertogenbosch tournament in the Netherlands, a title which she had actually won in the previous two years.

“It’s a funny sport, tennis. You can have a string of good wins but there’s a danger that you only remember your last defeat – after all, at the end of each week there is only one winner. I am more philosophical than that. You take the positives and the negatives.

“My 2017 highs? Melbourne obviously, where I reached the semi-finals. But also the Fed Cup – representing my country is huge for me as it should be for every player. Do I have a Grand Slam in me? You bet I believe that. I wouldn’t be playing otherwise!

“I am thrilled that I’ve just got Pat Cash on board with my team. He’s a great statesman and a great mind of tennis – he can help me with multiple aspects of my game, my preparation, my technique, how I conduct myself on and off court.”

CoCo, like other women players, sees her sport currently as an open field. “Players like Serena had so many wins back to back, but there will always be change, and new winners and champions. Hopefully I’ll be a part of that next wave.”

So CoCo, how about that grit versus glamour balance? Is the reality a bit less glossy than it looks? “Well, this time last year, when I won at Den Bosch, I spent more time at Amsterdam Airport – five hours – trying to fly out of the country, than I had spent on court winning the final! You do get to see a lot of departure lounges – I need to write the definitive guide!

And there was a little altercation, I believe, with Ryanair? “Oh Lord yes. That was one of my first years in Europe on the Tour. I got totally screwed over by the baggage. Nightmare. It was my own fault for trying to fly too cheap!” Other budget airlines are available, as they say….

CoCo has a large and fascinating family – including a grandmother who was 1952 Miss World and a mother who was an Olympic swimmer. “That was something that did hit me at first. I am used to a big family around me and a busy noisy house, with always something happening. You set off on the Tour, pretty young, and you are suddenly looking at the inside of a lot of hotel rooms. I was homesick at first and it was quite a shell-shock.

“But I found the balance in myself and you make firm friends along the way. We really have a lot of fun on the Tour. Some of my tennis friends from Juniors have stopped playing now, but I still see them and they keep me grounded. When I can, I try to enjoy the many different countries and not just fly through them.

“Eastbourne was actually my first introduction to England, when I came here as an Under-18 for a junior tournament, so I will always love the town. It is a brilliant place, to visit as well as to play. I must admit I’d love to bring our Californian beaches over here, though – there is nothing to match them! If you made me chief executive of the WTA for a day, the first decision would be to restore the La Costa tournament near my San Diego home!”

There you go: a lady who flies round the planet, but a home-loving girl at heart. It’s a grand life – and CoCo Vandeweghe seems to have that balance exactly right.