Chatting with Aga and ESPNW

Last week, I had a coveted weekday off. And what did I do? Lunch with a friend, shopped for groceries, and oh, I chatted with tennis pro Aga Radwanska.

Say what?

Yep, you read that correctly. Last month I won the opportunity to chat with Aga, through ESPNW’s 98 Days to Shine contest. Let me just say, I love so much about this contest. It combines my love of photography and with my love of sports.

But more than anything, this summer I’ve enjoyed watching how it gave women athletes a forum to showcase their strength, beauty, courage and determination, and to support one another.

My photo submission back in July depicted a hero, and I featured an image with Joan Benoit Samuelson, a pioneer in women’s distance running. (See below)

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My prize was a spiffy ESPNW shirt, and a google hangout with Aga.

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We’d been trying to coordinate for about a month, but everything came together late Thursday and with help from technology-savvy friend, my Google hangout chat with Aga moved forward Friday morning.

For those who don’t know much about Aga Radwanska, she’s a 24-year-old tennis phenom from Poland, who has taken the tennis world by storm. She’s currently among the female players in the world and was runner up to Serena Williams in in her first grand slam championship match at Wimbledon last year.

This week, Aga is playing at the US Open in New York. We chatted face to face – well, via computer screen anyway! I was armed with a listing questions, but knowing she was facing one of her biggest matches of the year, I asked her how she prepared for the big week.

Don’t be surprised: she relaxed! Aga and her younger sister Urzula, also a tennis pro, spent time in New Haven, CT. Aga said Connecticut was “nice and calm” and allowed her to take time off the court in the days leading up to her next Grand Slam match, in the hustle and bustle of New York.

“My biggest goal is always The Grand Slam,” she said. “Of course wherever you go you want I win.”

She’s quite proud of her accomplishments but knows hard work nets results.

“On one hand, it’s hard to get to the top, but it’s harder to stay there,” Aga said.

She trains hard. Aga said she spends about five ours each day training – two hours of tennis in the morning followed by 90 or so minutes of fitness training, then another 90 minutes of tennis each afternoon.

“It’s still fun, but sometimes it is hard,” Aga said. “You’re tired, exhausted, but you know you have to do it. Sometimes you just have to push yourself.”

We chatted about my sports history – swimming, rowing and running – and how they molded me int who I am today. We also chatted about her background, her love of exercising with her sister and how she prepares for the “big match.”

Spoiler: She tries not to think about an upcoming match, but instead listens to music before playing.

I also asked Aga about her image in the 2013 edition of ESPN’s The Body Issue. I you haven’t seen it, click here. To me, its such an incredible photographic feat each year and features images of elite athletes in the buff. Always tastefully done, the issue leaves me mesmerized by the athletes’ bodies, and inspired to improve my photographic skills and to head to the gym.

When asked to participate in the 2013 issue, Aga said she she needed to consider it for several days before accepting. She said she enjoyed the experience – and would do it again if asked. And, Aga said, she appreciated how supportive her family was of her decision.

Leading up to a match, Aga said she tries to put then task at hand out of her mind. Instead, she said, she plugs in and listens to music.

And as I write this, Aga’s US Open journey is well underway! Aga already won her first two rounds of play as she strives to win the US Open title next week. Her third round is today! Good luck Aga!!

Her advice to all aspiring athletes? Work hard. Set goals and work steadily toward those goals.

What questions would you ask Aga? Have you participated in ESPNW’s 98 Days to Shine contest? It’s not too late as it ends this weekend!

You’ve heard my thoughts! Would love to hear yours here.