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3 - 11 feb. 2024 Cluj-Napoca

Jaqueline Cristian: “Cluj was my launching pad, I always wish to stay as long as possible at this tournament!”

After her convincing victory (6-3, 6-2) against Marina Bassols Ribera in the first round of the Transylvania Open, we asked Jaqueline Cristian what it was like to play an opponent she had no time to prepare for – she was going to play against Miriam Bulgaru in the first round, who withdrew at the last moment due to medical problems – and what exactly are her set goals for her fourth participation in the Cluj tournament.

Jaqueline, the last-minute change didn’t seem to affect you, how did you handle a situation that seemed uncomfortable?

Yes, I felt very good on the pitch, I feel good playing at home. It was a little chaotic at first because it’s never easy to make a game plan and then to get a little distracted by all the change. You’re a little panicked. But the team and I managed the moment very well. I knew Marina, and at the end of the day, the most important thing in tennis is to focus on yourself. Because if you do your job well, you are basically at peace with yourself and the things you do. In the end, you see the result, whether it’s good or bad. But you have to leave the field with the thought that you gave your best. And today was a very solid match. I adapted well to the conditions and was happy to be in front of the public. Because honestly, I feel more at home on these couches (in the players’ lounge) than on my own couch at home.

How long was it before you found out about the opponent’s change?

Ten minutes before the match. I went to start my warm-up, I began running a little and then the referee came to me and told me that Miriam had to withdraw and that I would play with Marina.

Did you think that somehow it was better not to play against a Romanian player?

Yes. It’s never pleasant to play against a Romanian, especially at home, in Cluj, where you want, as a tournament, to have as many Romanian players in the tournament as possible. Ok, it’s probably fun for the audience. But for us, it’s not easy and you don’t want this thing. 

Then, of course, at the end, when you enter the field, it’s you and the ball and it doesn’t matter who’s your opponent anymore. But yes, it was a bit of a relief, a change of vibe. You somehow feel more relaxed, calmer, and the emotions change a bit.

What are your plans here, during your fourth participation at the Transylvania Open?

I always want to stay as long as possible at this tournament, because I really like it and I feel very good in Cluj. Cluj was somewhat my launching pad because here I won those 2020 FED Cup matches. So I hope to achieve the best tour scoring possible and to feel as good as possible on the pitch, to charge myself with the energy of the crowd, because it’s not just about this week. You leave this place with a different energy regarding the other tournaments and it matters a lot; especially at the beginning of the year, it really helps. 

Before, when the tournament was at the end of the year, it helped you get up, because at the end of the year we are tired after coming from a whole year full of tournaments, so there were advantages then too. But playing now, in February, especially after coming from Australia, helps.

Has anything changed in the way you approach the tournament? Do you feel that you are more peaceful playing at home? You didn’t come in with your Dracula cape this time.

I didn’t bring the cape because I was coming from another tournament and I didn’t have time to take it from home. And, to be honest, I also thought that… It’s a character that I created and I’m very happy with it, it’s a very funny idea, but Draculina has grown up and is part of the tour; it’s here, but it’s somewhere in the past. Honestly, I feel more mature every year, not only in tennis but also in life. The road is more beaten, you know the path a bit better. And I can say that the steps I’m taking now are a little safer.

Jaqueline Cristian will play in the second round of the Transylvania Open against Clara Tauson.