Marina Erakovic hits Florida boot camp

READY TO GO: Marina Erakovic.
READY TO GO: Marina Erakovic.

Marina Erakovic is serious about shaking things up for 2013. So much so she is prepared to sacrifice one of the golden months of her tennis year.

The 24-year-old New Zealander spends so much time out travelling the world in the name of her game, she's always regarded her Decembers back home in Auckland as being a bit special. Sacred even.

It's when she gets to touch base again with family and friends, sleep in her own bed, go to her favourite cafes, and at the same time reset her goals, fine-tune her game a little, and work on her fitness.

The added bonus is she gets to be home for the first real month of summer and enjoy a rare spell when she can be as normal as you get in the upper echelon of professional tennis.

But that's out the window this year as Erakovic makes a move she believes could pay dividends down the line.

The world No 67 has for the second year running earned direct entry into the field for Auckland's ASB Classic.

Erakovic will leave tomorrow to undertake a three-week training camp with her coach, Christian Zahalka, in Florida.

It will be an intensive, tennis-heavy period of preparation, where she will work as hard as she ever as ahead of a new campaign, before returning to New Zealand just in time for Christmas.

"This is different, this is the first time I've done this," Erakovic told the Sunday Star-Times. "I usually do my off-season training here but the tennis is just missing, I can do as much running, or hills and stairs as I want here. But the tennis side is really lacking.

"I don't have the players, I don't have my coach, who's going to be over there. This is going to be important and I think it will be beneficial."

Erakovic says it's a sacrifice she needs to make as she looks to improve on a 2012 season where her ranking peaked at a career-high 39.

"In the past when I've trained in Florida and done the work - and we work hard over there - it's usually paid off. Even if it doesn't come straight away, I think it will be like putting pennies in a piggy-bank. It will pay off down the line."

What Erakovic will have over the next three weeks or so in Florida, as well as world-class facilities, the direct attention of her coach and ideal weather, will be a ready-made supply of hitting partners.

And it's that real-life simulation of the hard grind of a contest that simply cannot be replicated thousands of miles away from tennis central in Auckland.

"It's just a different tennis environment. You have a lot of players over there coming to train and we can all play with each other . . . you feel like ‘hey, I've got to step up my game' and you do. That's just what it's like."

Erakovic praised new ASB Classic tournament director Karl Budge for the quality of the field he was able to put together for the 2013 Classic, starting December 31.

"He's done so well to get this field with China there now. It's a great field, and will be a battle for everyone out there."

Meanwhile, Erakovic shrugged off the loss of her personal sponsorship with Kia after the car company pulled its backing of tennis in New Zealand. "You know I've never owned a car in my life," she said. "I'm definitely going to miss my Kia, but I'm out of the country for so long. I've got to find something for Mum and Dad to drive now."

Sunday Star Times