The dance, well viewed on the Internet, was reserved for victories only at the United States Open, and the only victor in the first match of Petkovic’s life at Arthur Ashe Stadium was the No. 7 seed, Vera Zvonareva.
“In between the points, I tried to take my time, but the points I rushed,” a nervous Petkovic said. “I tried to go for the winners too fast. Vera, she moves unbelievably, so this was really the wrong approach.”
Yet one suspects that it will take much more than a lopsided 6-1, 6-2 defeat under the lights to send Petkovic into an extended funk.
An unseeded 22-year-old German, Petkovic has a roving intellect and a Manhattan-size appetite for life. In a Darwinian, nomadic sport that can quickly grind down players, Petkovic is still fresh in her legs and her head.
That may be because she was not programmed from an early age to be part of this circus.
Her father, Zoran, one of her coaches, was a member of the Yugoslavian Davis Cup team in the early 1980s and also played at South Carolina. He took his family to Germany when Petkovic was an infant, and when Yugoslavia broke apart violently in the early 1990s, the Petkovics, who are ethnic Serbs, decided to remain in Germany.
Petkovic, born in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina, returns often and is close friends with the Serbian player Ana Ivanovic, although she considers herself a patriotic German.
She said her father never wanted her to be a professional tennis player. She chose the path herself and chose it relatively late for an elite player, finishing high school before becoming a full-time competitor.
“I don’t think Rafa Nadal was practicing only two hours a day like me when he was 15,” Petkovic said with a laugh earlier this week. “I lived a normal life until I was 19. I finished high school. I went out with my friends. So when I came into the tennis world, I’m still going around like a little child who is 5 years old, and I’m still amazed by everything I see.”
“When I see David Nalbandian, I’m like, ‘Ooh,’ and he came to me and said, ‘Nice dancing,’ and I said, ‘Oh really!’ ” she added. “So for me, everything is still amazing.”
She performed the dance after her three-set upset of Nadia Petrova in the first round. “It started out as a bet in the beginning, because I was playing really bad in the first tournaments here in the U.S., so my coach told me, ‘If you win today and beat Petrova, you have to dance or do something special,’ ” she said. “So I said, ‘Definitely’, because I didn’t really expect to be winning against Petrova. So he looked at me after I won, and I said, ‘O.K.’ And I’m very superstitious, and I think every athlete is superstitious.”
Which meant that she did it on a practice court Saturday, even though she received a third-round walkover because of an injury to Peng Shuai of China. Those who might have missed the dance at Flushing Meadows in person can see it on the Internet, where it is possible to see plenty of Petkovic.
She is writing blog posts for ESPN.com in English at the tournament and regularly posts bilingual updates on her Web site or on Twitter.
“I find it much easier in English than in German,” she said. “It’s easier to be funny in English than in German. German is not a funny language.”
She has filmed tours of player parties that include her interviews of fellow players and has even filmed some fake newscasts long on self-parody in which she refers to herself as Petkorazzi.
“I view ourselves, athletes in general, as entertainers,” she said.
In one video, she wears a blazer and thick glasses, fumbles with a script and a glass of water and reads a news report that declares herself missing after her forgettable performance at Wimbledon this year.
“The last time she was seen was playing mixed doubles with her partner Marx,” she says in the video, referring to her partner, Philipp Marx. “The fact that I play mixed doubles with a guy named Marx is no lead to my political attitude whatsoever.” -Nytimes