Interview with
Gabriela Dabrowski

by Peter Figura

Spring 2017

Gaby Dabrowski was also training at Ontario Racquet Club when the ONtennis team were filing there so we had a delightful interview with her. Gaby's 2017 is shaping up a little differently and a lot better than she envisioned here. Her win in women's doubles with Xu Yifan at the Miami Open has boosted her ranking and confidence. It also shows she can go with the flow and succeed with many different partners!

Q.You are coming off your best year as a pro, especially in doubles. What has been you key to success?

A.I don’t think there’s just one, there are probably many. I’ve been working with some great people, some great coaches and great fitness trainers so that has helped. I’ve been reading up on the mental side and try to always refresh my memories before tournaments and that has been beneficial too. I think that the way that I scheduled this year was very productive for the doubles side, maybe a little bit less on the singles side, but I think that also contributed to the doubles results I had.

Q.Do you have any specific goals for 2017?

A.I have a steady doubles partner, Michaela Krycek, and we spoke about it and our biggest goal is to make Singapore, the year-end Masters, so we’d have to play a full on year schedule to do that. It’s a big goal. I think if we both play well it’s achievable.

Q.Going back to when you began playing in Ottawa, I think your dad was your coach, could you tell us about how you got started?

A.I actually started by myself with one of my friends in the summer when I was 7 years old. My parents didn’t even know until a few weeks later when I came home and told my dad “There’s a man at the park and he came by and asked me where I take lessons and I didn’t know what to say."

So my Dad was wary of that and he came to the courts. The man commented on my good coordination and that I was really athletic for being so young. My dad said “Oh yes, I really see that, we didn’t even know she was playing tennis”. So it kind of started accidentally and then I took lessons at Ottawa Athletic Club with Tony Milo, he was my first coach. Then my Dad educated himself over the years and in my teenage years he traveled with me.

Q.Who were your heroes growing up?

A.They kind of changed depending on who was winning at the time and who I liked. It was never one person Martina Hingis Kim Clijsters, Jusitne Henin then back to Kim Clijsters. A dozen girls maybe.

Q.At what age did you realize that you had the potential to be a good national and international level player?

A.Probably from playing Ontario provincials, starting out with those and all the local tournaments and selections, getting put into junior regroupings and hearing coaches feedback, people like Louis Cayer, that kind of gave me a good idea of the path I might take.

Q.How instrumental was winning Les Petit As?

A.That was probably the most solidifying indicator I could have had as a junior, because that’s considered the biggest junior tournament in the world under 14. That was the first stepping stone.


Q.How important was the OTA Tournament structure in your development?

A.When I was 10/11 I was playing under 14s so I was, not always the youngest, but always one of the younger girls playing in the older kids’ categories. It was convenient to travel within Ontario to tournaments we had a lot of options available to go and play which was good.

It’s important to remember that junior results are not really important. It’s important to go out and play, to play with each other and try to remember to grow, but those results are not really an indicator of how good or how bad you will be in the future.

Q.When you won the U18 Orange Bowl, did you expect to win?

A.No I didn’t expect it ‘cause I had hurt my knee two weeks prior in finals of a G1 in Mexico and I could barely walk for 2 days after that match. Then I got through Eddie Herr, took a lot of pain killers. Then I went into Orange Bowl not even being able to warm up. I did a physical warm up as best I could, took more pain killers and went out and tried to do the best that I could. Probably because I was injured it alleviated any pressures at 17 of wanting to do well. I knew I could win if I played well but it was kind of out of the cards for me at the time.

Q.If you were to advise some of the young up and comers about the ins and outs of the tour what would you tell them?

A.Pay very close attention to who you have around you and what tournaments you schedule – it’s really important to take mental breaks from the tour because when you come back you’re refreshed and you can feel like, not a new player, but see the court with new eyes. With the way that the tennis ranking system works it’s easy to get sucked in to playing lots of tournaments to try and build up your ranking points. But it’s not always the best option, so try to manage your schedule as best you can and try to take some time for yourself.

In 2017, Gabriela has focused on playing doubles and has early success winning the Miami Open teaming up with Yifan Xu of China. She has achieved a new career-high ranking of 19. Congrats Gabby!

Q.It can be very hard financially for a player to stay on tour especially in the early years. How did you manage when you started out?

A.Don’t I know it! It’s tough because everybody’s situation is different – I was really lucky to have the support my parents who were willing to make the sacrifices needed for me to continue on my tennis journey. If you have very supportive parents that’s a bonus. For me it kind of worked out to target doubles, I’ve been able to make more money doing that for now, and hopefully that will give me a little bit more freedom to invest in singles.

Q.Did any of the older players on tour take you under their wing?

A.Training at Saddlebrook in Florida was really cool because when I was younger there were players like Martina Hingis, Justine Henin, Dominika Cibulkova, Ekaterina Makarova, and then James Blake, John Isner and even Andy Roddick, all these big names in one place was really inspiring. At Saddlebrook I would practice with Rene Stubbs, she would give me a lot of advice and she gave me a little taste of how the tour life is and what to watch out for, how to deal with certain people and stories here and there and that was pretty good insight.

Q.What interests do you have off the court to keep you occupied between matches and tournaments?

A.I love spending time with my friends, I really miss them when I’m on the tour alone. I love to watch TV, read books, movies also once in a while And if I can get out and sightsee I like to do that with someone – but I don’t really like to do it alone so If there’s another girl on tour who’s willing to go and see something then I try to make that happen.

Q.What is your training regimen?

A.It depends on the week. Right now I’m in off season pre-season so balance tennis and fitness together 1 to 1.5 hours of fitness along with 1.5 to 2.5 of tennis Maybe closer to the tournaments I ween off the fitness a little bit, add more match play into the training practice rather than specific drilling and working on my technique and stuff like that.

Q.If you had to describe to someone what type of player you are what would you say?

A.In singles probably an all courter- I love to come into the net sometimes I even serve and volley. I like to use slices to mix up the pace as approach shots and drop shots. Probably about the same in doubles I don’t like to stay at the baseline and try to overpower opponents I try to be smart and use all shots.


Q.Who are your favourite doubles partners?

A.I had fun playing a few weeks ago playing with Michaela, we won the Tevlin Challenger.

In mixed doubles Rohan Bopanna and Nicholas Monroe were my tennis partners this year. Playing with them was unbelievable, they have such good energy and are such nice guys. It’s nice to mix into the ATP tour a little bit. It was nice to spend time with them as people too.

Q.In 2013 you had a great run at the Rogers Cup playing with Sharon Fichman and made the semifinals. What was that whole experience like?

A.We beat the #1 team in quarter finals. The atmosphere for that match was really cool. I just remember thinking “If we continue to play well together and play strong and tough doubles we could be a really good team some day.” But Sharon was concentrating on singles so we didn’t always get the opportunity to play together. But it was very special to be in Toronto and have that happen.

Q.Are you aware of any young Canadian players who you think might be special?

A.I just played Bianca Andreescuat the Tevlins, I think she’s really good. All-around game, good serve, good returns, moves pretty well, good hands, uses the drop shot quite well.

Q.Who in your life has been instrumental in your success over the years?

A.I can’t pick one person. There have been many people over the years. My parents have been the key supporters. The coaches in Florida at Saddlebrook, here at ORC as well, Andrea Rabzak and this week Yves Boulais, they’ve given their time for me. Andrea and I have had some special moments and results together, she’s been at some tournaments where I’ve really done well so that’s been really cool.