Variety in her game and life driving Jil Teichmann to new heights

ROME, Italy — The tennis world can be prone to pigeonholing players. She she’s aggressive; she’s defensive. She specialises in this surface and can’t stand that one. Nationality is shorthand for personality; up-and-comers are new versions of their idols.

Jil Teichmann — born and raised in Barcelona, ​​Spain, to Swiss parents — doesn’t think like that. Instead, the free-spirited 24-year-old is all about mixing it up.

“I take the best from everyone and everything,” she said.

The variety starts with her game. It’s a blend of swashbuckling offense at the net, classic slides on defense, a penchant for drop shots and crowd-pleasing tweeners. It’s taken her to a trio of WTA 1000 semifinals — Dubai 2021, Cincinnati 2021 (where she was runner-up) and Madrid last week. Ranked No.76 last August, this week Teichmann cracked the Top 30 and perched at a career-high of No.29.

In Rome, she’s kept going, upsetting former champion Karolina Pliskova in three terrific sets to make the Round of 16.

“I’ve always liked the variety,” she said. “It’s taken more time [to come together], obviously, because first you have to know when to use which shots. And then, every single shot you have, you have to perfect it. It’s just my own style and I had to accept that it might take more time. But I’m in no rush. I will take my time and hopefully it goes up and up.

“Even though most people think I’m only a clay-court player, I don’t see myself like that. Showing it in Dubai and Cincinnati where the conditions were completely fast — fast balls, fast court — and I was able to win against the best players shows that I’m able to do anything if I’m in the right mindset and physically in shape.”

Teichmann is a product of different influences in almost every aspect of her life.

“People ask who my idol was, but I never had one person,” she said. “I was really trying to take the best from each player, to catch what they do best. I do the same with different cultures. I grew up in a Swiss-German home, going to Swiss school, but I was in Spain. A Swiss bubble in Spain.

“But I learned as a kid to take the best from everyone, and I still do with anything in life. In my private life I also try to take the best from each person — to learn, to be open, to stay humble. “

“Character isn’t about nationality.”

– Jil Teichmann on rejecting stereotypes

Teichmann also rejects the idea that she is “truly” either Swiss or Spanish, or the national stereotypes that can get imposed on athletes.

“People say I’m super-open, easy-going, and they see that as more the Spanish way. But my dad is the same, and he was born and grew up in Switzerland. My brother grew up the same way as me , and he’s more introverted. Character isn’t about nationality.”

Even Teichmann’s coaching situation is a blend. She prefers to work with two coaches — former WTA World No.46 Arantxa Parra Santonja, who travels with her for most of the year, and former ATP World No.34 Alberto Martín, who trains with her in Barcelona.

“It works awesome for me,” she said. “The main key is the communication — between all three of us, but especially between them. I don’t always hear that or control that, because I cannot be on everything, but I trust them. They see my tennis the same way and they try to make the best out of it, no matter how they played or how their styles were. They really adapt to me.”

As Teichmann has risen in the rankings, fans everywhere have certainly adapted to her. She’s a charismatic presence on court, not just for her game but her evident joie de vivre and willingness to play to the gallery. (She describes herself as “goofy and sarcastic,” and picks Jennifer Lawrence as her favorite actor in her favorite film, “Ocean’s 8.”

many players speak about having fun on the court as though it’s something they have to consciously learn to do; Teichmann, by contrast, embodies it.

Last year, facing match point against Svitolina in Madrid, Teichmann pulled off an audacious drop shot to stay alive — and threw her head back in laughter. She went on to save six match points en route to victory, but she still remembers that drop shot.

Anatomy of a Comeback – Teichmann saves 6 MPs against Svitolina in Madrid: Highlights

2021 Madrid

“I was laughing with some of the spectators,” she said. “Some boys who were making a lot of noise, and they started to cheer for me. I was like, ‘This one’s for you guys!’

“I love the crowd. I’m a crowd player. I practice for that — to play in stadiums against the best players — full stadiums, full crowds. I absorb the energy and it makes me smile. It makes me want to show what I can do. To have people cheer for you, shout your name when they watch you — it’s all about that for me.”

For much of Teichmann’s junior career, she grew up in the shadow of fellow 1997-born Swiss star Belinda Bencic. This was also something she took in stride.

“I was always second and always out of the spotlight,” she says. “It was great for me. Belinda was always one category above me or two steps ahead, but we always had a good relationship. There was never hate or competitiveness. And now we’re super-happy that we’re able to share so many nice tournaments together, and the Billie Jean King Cup, too.”

For Teichmann, sharing human moments with other people is of the utmost importance. She has a squad of friends back home who help keep her grounded, and whenever possible she catches up with them over a meal. (A keen foodie, Teichmann keeps lists of restaurants in every city she visits on her phone, and checks them off when she visits them.)

“Some of them I’ve known since I was 3 years old, some from school, some from tennis. Obviously we’re in contact in messaging groups all the time but the face-to-face thing, for me that has no price . That’s the best thing, to talk about life and to be a person.

“They know I rely on them. I need to feel like a person sometimes, because we live in this bubble, which is not true life. One day it’s gonna finish, and I still want to have learned things about real life. You need a balance in life — most people say that but don’t do it, so I really try to do what I say.”

Teichmann’s sociability has one limit. As a child, she and her brother took part in every sport going – football, basketball, taekwondo. Skiing was a great love, but an accident at the age of 14, which nearly wrecked her knees meant that it had to be set aside to protect her nascent tennis career. (“It’s the first thing I’m gonna do when I stop playing, 100%,” she says.)

But for the competitive Teichmann, teamwork wasn’t something she found easy.

“I hated to lose in football or basketball because of others,” she said. “I could not stand that. As a kid, I was giving everything and leaving my heart and soul out there. And still you lose, because others maybe don’t have the same motivation! Tennis is more about me, it’s more in my hands.”

As an adult, Teichmann is still giving everything and leaving her heart and soul on court — and with her array of shots in her hands, this is paying real dividends.

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