At the age of 17, Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva achieves milestones not only for herself but also for her country.
A lucky loser at this week’s Hana Bank Korea Open, Jimenez Kasintseva has become the first player from the Pyrenean principality of Andorra, which sits between France and Spain with a population of 77,265, to reach a WTA Quarterfinals. Showing dynamic, athletic play that revolved around a heavy left-handed forehand, she defeated Rebecca Marino, her third top 100 win of her career, in the second round.
No Andorran had competed in a single WTA peloton before Jimenez Kasintseva made his debut in Madrid last year. This follows a stellar junior career in which she became the girls’ champion of the Australian Open 2020 at the age of 14.
Jimenez Kasintseva’s move to the pros has already propelled her to world No. 180 and she will receive another significant boost after her run in Seoul. Find out here what drives the young pioneer:
She draws inspiration from players from other small countries… and herself
“I am very, very proud to represent my country,” Jimenez Kasintseva said via Zoom.
Starting a tennis career in Andorra was complicated, she said. There were no tennis courts and she had to move to Barcelona to train.
“I lived in Barcelona with my father while my mother was in Andorra with my brother and it was very hard for me. But honestly, it made me stronger.”
The only other ranking player in Andorra’s history on both tours was her own father, Joan Jimenez Guerra, who peaked at number 505 on the ATP Tour in 1999 and coached his daughter during her junior years. But Jimenez Kasintseva drew inspiration from other players from non-traditional tennis countries such as Tunisia’s world No. 2 Ons Jabeur and US Open girls champion Alexandra Eala of the Philippines.
“It’s amazing what Ons and Alex are doing and I feel like I’m a part of it. I remember watching Ons on TV at smaller events and now she’s had two Grand Slam finals in a row. And I know Alex and she really deserves all of her success.”
Jimenez Guerra is currently paying it on to future Andorran generations. He is in the process of establishing an academy and much-needed courts. With her father busy at home, Jimenez Kasintseva is now working with Eduardo Nicolas, former coach of WTA stars like Daniela Hantuchova and Shahar Peer.
When Jimenez Kasintseva needs some inspiration for now, she often looks to another player: her younger self.
“When I think about it, what I did at the Australian Open is incredible,” she says. “I was only 14, such a little girl, and it was my first Grand Slam. It’s amazing how strong my mind was and how strong I actually thought that I could win the title by fighting and doing my best. Honestly, I’m inspired by myself to think it doesn’t matter if you’re young, it doesn’t matter what your placement is, you always have a chance if you’re fighting for every point.
“My goals are exactly that. I have a whole career ahead of me and I want to enjoy the process and fate will be with me on my way.”
For Jimenez Kasintseva, suffering is joy
As Jimenez Kasintseva rose over the past year, she has shown a penchant for getting involved in epic games.
She won the longest match of the 2021 WTA 125 season, defeating Maria Lourdes Carle in 3 hours 48 minutes 7-6 (10) 5-7 7-5 in the second round of Montevideo. Jimenez Kasintseva saved two match points. A similar fight took place in the second round of the Vancouver 125 last month, where Jimenez Kasintseva saved a match point en route to a 7-5, 6-7(5), 7-6(7) against Jodie Burrage in 2 hours 55 Protocol.
“I like feeling pressure and nervousness,” she said. “I’m very competitive, I’ve always been, and honestly, that’s what I love about tennis. It keeps me alive, it keeps me awake. Honestly when I come out of the match I feel so tired and so nervous but in the match I’m actually enjoying it so much. Well, it’s kind of enjoying and also suffering. But in the end, when you suffer and win, that’s the best feeling.
One of her best career wins came after a night at the airport
Last November’s Montevideo 125 was also the scene of Jimenez Kasintseva’s first top 100 win, a 6-3, 6-4 win in the first round over seeded No. 1 Beatriz Haddad Maia – who has since entered the Top 20 climbed. But their preparation for this agreement had been imperfect, to say the least.
“I was in Brazil and had connecting flights from Brazil to Argentina, then Argentina to Uruguay,” she said. “Well, we had some problems in Argentina. They didn’t let us go to Uruguay, I don’t remember exactly why. But they didn’t let us leave the airport either, so we had to sleep there with the security guard.
“The next morning we had a flight and everything was fine. We arrived in Uruguay just before I had to play in the night session. But I was actually lucky. They put my fitness trainer on another flight to Uruguay and he arrived 30 minutes before my match. So I was able to warm up! And I thought I was stressed enough to come to the tournament, so I decided I had to be as positive as possible. That’s why I won. “
In the end, the experience taught Jimenez Kasintseva a valuable lesson about perfection.
“To be perfect and to be a tennis player is just impossible,” she said. “It’s such a tough sport, it’s a sport that uses your whole body and it’s so hard to have the perfect shots every day. And every day is a different day, different players, different conditions, different weather. The only things you can control are how you eat, how you sleep, how you warm up, how professional you are. That’s the only thing a tennis player should focus on – not whether the forehand is okay or whatever.
Off the field, she loves to learn… but Choco the Chihuahua has her heart
At school, languages are Jimenez Kasintseva’s forte. She speaks five languages: Spanish, Catalan, English, French and Russian.
“French and Russian are more difficult for me – I studied French at school and learned Russian from my mother – but I get by. I do my best to keep both languages.”
This year her interest was sparked by a new topic: marketing. Consequently, Jimenez Kasintseva forms strong opinions about how she would market tennis to her generation.
“I would try to give the new players more visibility,” she said. “It’s important to give visibility to every aspect of the sport and everyone in it, not just those at the top or the likes. Not only young players – also older ones who break through. At the end of the day they deserve a chance to be seen. And I think my generation likes to see change, not always the same people.”
Aside from studying, Jimenez Kasintseva’s favorite activity off the field is her Chihuahua Choco.
“I got it on August 3, 2020,” she said. “It was actually very sad for me because I had another dog, his name was Leo and he was also a Chihuahua. That morning he was hit by a car. We were all just sad at home, so in the afternoon we got Choco. It was hard at first because I really missed Leo, but soon with Choco it was amazing – they are so different but you love them the same.
“He doesn’t travel to tournaments. He stays with my grandmother or my uncle. The thing is, everyone loves Choco. Everybody wants to take Choco away when I’m gone. I don’t have to take him, they take care of him.”
They are not interested in comparisons with other players
Last week in Chennai, the draw produced an intriguing potential second-round clash between two 2005-born team-mates, Jimenez Kasintseva and Linda Fruhvirtova. Despite playing the same tournaments at each stage of juniors, the two had never played each other. They still haven’t. Jimenez Kasintseva fell to Rebecca Peterson in the first round, who then fell to Fruhvirtova. The Czech teenager won her first WTA title, but Jimenez Kasintseva doesn’t see much motivation in that.
“Lina and [younger sister] Brenda is a fighter and they always had respect from the other players for that,” she said. “They are really good and really deserve to be where they are. But I only want to think of myself. Linda did a great job, but I just go my own way and don’t want to put any pressure on myself. I know I can do it too, but I don’t want to think about it.”
If there’s one thing Jimenez Kasintseva learned in 2022, it’s that there’s no need to rush.
“Sometimes I wanted to be in the top 100 and be a top player so badly that I come into a tournament and I just feel too much pressure,” she said. “Then things don’t go the way I want. But I’ve learned that everyone has different paths in life and I don’t have to compare myself to others.”