“I was fed up with everything” – How Bernarda Pera went from fed up to rocketing up the rankings

In this Tennis Majors exclusive, Bernarda Pera spoke about her splendid run of form,
doubts, playing style, things she looks for in a coach and future goals.

Bernarda Pera in Hamburg, 2022 Bernarda Pera in Hamburg, 2022 – © Imago / Panoramic

“The week before Budapest, I was talking to Kristina (Mladenovic) about how I was fed up with everything – playing well, but not being able to break through,” Bernarda Pera tells Tennis Majors.

What happened next?

Bernarda Pera broke through – in a big way! Not only has she won the title in Budapest, she was victorious in Hamburg the following week as well, rifling past world number 2 Anett Kontaveit in the finals. Twelve matches, 24 sets – not a single one dropped.

Recently languishing at number 130 in the world, in only two weeks left-handed Pera has more than cut in half her ranking – she now holds a career-high number 54 on the WTA rankings.

“Top 50 has been a goal of mine for quite some time. I am on the verge of achieving it, and then I will set some new goals,” Pera smiled during her interview with Tennis Majors.

Bernarda was born in Zadar, Croatia, but she moved to the USA at the age of 16, since there were not good enough conditions for her to develop in her hometown. She switched to playing under the flag of the USA.

“I am where I am partly because of the conditions I got in the USA,” 27-year-old Pera does not regret her decision, on the contrary, she is grateful for the help she has received.

In her interview with Tennis Majors, Pera spoke about her magnificent run and the work behind it, her father, coach, future plans and more…

What everybody is wondering now is – what clicked for you in Budapest and Hamburg?

Actually, I have been feeling well on the court for quite some time now – in practice that is. I just have not been able to translate it to matches. I miscommunicated with my coach about his arrangements, so I was coachless at Budapest, but it turned out really well because it somehow made me more relaxed coming into the tournament.

I was there with my boyfriend – he does not know much about tennis, but he was a great support. Things started to take a turn, I played better and better, gained more confidence with each win. In Hamburg, I think my level was even higher than in Budapest.

We often hear players saying “I felt good on the court.” How would you explain that feeling?

When we play points and games in practice, I feel the ball extremely well. For instance, I serve great in practice, but then the match comes and it is not the same…

Finally, after all the work I have put in, in Budapest I relaxed a little and everything clicked.

For you, what was the key for translating to matches the level you had in practice?

My game is fairly aggressive and I am very self-critical – I do not like it when I do something wrong, when I miss… So, for me it was very important to be more forgiving of myself, because there will be errors considering my game-style.  

“The week before Budapest, I was talking to Kristina (Mladenovic) about how I was fed up with everything – playing well, but not being able to break through.”

Bernarda Pera

I enjoy attacking, I enjoy going for the point, so it is crucial to keep that mentality even when I commit some errors, and not let the mistakes get to me. I am comfortable with being aggressive, that is the way I like to play.

It has not been an easy road. You have changed quite a few coaches (Guilermo Canas, Luka Belic, Kristijan Schneider, Velimir Zovko) and now you have been working with Miro Hrvatin for a year now. What was the most challenging thing about this whole process?

Yes, I have changed a lot of coaches in the past few years, and everyone was insisting on something else in my game. It went like this: I start to work on something new, which does not get me results straight away, and then the doubts creep in, I do not feel well… There was a lot of negativity, you try to tell yourself positive things, but you do not really believe them. It is a huge battle to find your way out of that circle.

What is it that you look for in a coach and how has it been with Hrvatin (former coach of Miomir Kecmanovic)?

For me, the most important thing for a coach is for him to be supportive. I need him to be calm and not to panic. I can be emotional and nervous, so I need to see someone calm on the outside, it is a balance.

“I miscommunicated with my coach about his arrangements, so I was coachless at Budapest, but it turned out really well because it somehow made me more relaxed coming into the tournament.”

Bernarda Pera

Of course, things related to the game itself are important as well. When Miro first joined the team, he asked me to keep the ball in the court, not to make too many errors. We fought with each other a bit about that, I told you already what my game-style is. He was working with Miomir Kecmanovic, and spent a lot of time in men’s tennis, so we had disagreements. I feel like we have found a middle-ground now a few months ago – I am still offensive-minded, but sometimes I play with a bigger margin for error.

First two WTA finals, two comprehensive victories. How were you able to manage your nerves so efficiently?

Actually, I did not. I was very nervous coming into the final with Aleksandra (Krunic). I thought that it was going to affect my game, but tennis-wise, I was feeling so good on the court that even with all those nerves I still played very well.

Your game style is well-suited for faster surfaces, so how come these titles came on clay – do you like having more time for your shots?

Yes, it is true that I have bigger swings maybe, but the key is that I grew up on clay. Years went by before I stepped on any other surface. I enjoy clay.

You had some tough times throughout your career, this year as well with a tear in your quadriceps after Australia, dealing with Covid… What keeps you going during the rough patches?

For me, it was never hard to motivate myself, I never thought about giving up. Everything that happens, I just look at it as one more obstacle on the path I am on. All players get injured, you just do what you have to do to heal it, and then you move on. My dad has always been my biggest support. I respect him as a person and I really value his opinion.

Pera is scheduled to play the Thoreau Tennis Open next week in Concord, followed by Cincinnati, Cleveland and then the US Open.

Top 50 is the next goal, but Bernarda has earned the right to dream bigger dreams now.

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