10 QUESTIONS FOR COCO VANDEWEGHE

Ken Hoffman serves up 10 questions for tennis star CoCo Vandeweghe

Ken Hoffman serves up 10 questions for tennis star CoCo Vandeweghe
Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

Last year, this same week, I interviewed Swiss tennis star Belinda Bencic who was competing in the Oracle Challenge Series at Rice University.

Bencic was coming off a serious injury and her ranking had fallen outside the Top 50. I asked Bencic 10 questions, some serious, some silly, and boom — she had her best year ever on the tennis tour in 2019, winning three tournaments, making her first Grand Slam semifinal, returning to the Top 10 for the first time since 2016 and qualifying for the year-end Women's Tennis Association Finals.

I don't see a coincidence.

So, this week, I sat down with CoCo Vandeweghe, my favorite American player, another former Top 10 star coming off an injury, at the Oracle Challenger Series currently underway at Rice. Vandeweghe's ranking has fallen outside the Top 300. She plays next against Anhelina Kalinina from Ukraine (no quid pro quo here) in third-round action.

Here are 10 questions with CoCo and I totally expect her back in the Top 10 where she belongs in 2020. It won't be a coincidence.

CultureMap: Your grandmother (Colleen Kay Hutchins) was Miss America in 1952. Have you ever thought about wearing her tiara during a U.S. Open match, just to freak out your opponent?

CoCo Vandeweghe: That's a funny story. Her tiara was stolen from an apartment in New York when she was Miss America, right out of a safe. So we don't have her tiara.

They didn't give her a replacement, this was back in the '50s. We kept the trophy, which we gave back to the organization as memorabilia when she passed away (in 2010).

CM: Tennis players have to stay in shape, but what do you dive into on a cheat day?

CV: My birthday is coming up (December 6). I will be having steak, baked potato, asparagus, and chocolate cake. That's my menu for my birthday, and that's a cheat day. I will have butter on the baked potato— the full nine yards. I don't care, calories don't count on your birthday.


Continue on CultureMap to find out if CoCo ever gets genuinely mad at an opponent, and much more.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
The Astros have their work cut out for them. Composite Getty Image.

Through 20 games, the Houston Astros have managed just six wins and are in last place in the AL West.

Their pitching staff trails only Colorado with a 5.24 ERA and big-money new closer Josh Hader has given up the same number of earned runs in 10 games as he did in 61 last year.

Despite this, these veteran Astros, who have reached the AL Championship Series seven consecutive times, have no doubt they’ll turn things around.

“If there’s a team that can do it, it’s this team,” shortstop Jeremy Peña said.

First-year manager Joe Espada, who was hired in January to replace the retired Dusty Baker, discussed his team’s early struggles.

“It’s not ideal,” he said. “It’s not what we expected, to come out of the shoot playing this type of baseball. But you know what, this is where we’re at and we’ve got to pick it up and play better. That’s just the bottom line.”

Many of Houston’s problems have stemmed from a poor performance by a rotation that has been decimated by injuries. Ace Justin Verlander and fellow starter José Urquidy haven’t pitched this season because of injuries and lefty Framber Valdez made just two starts before landing on the injured list with a sore elbow.

Ronel Blanco, who threw a no-hitter in his season debut April 1, has pitched well and is 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA in three starts this season. Cristian Javier is also off to a good start, going 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in four starts, but the team has won just two games not started by those two pitchers.

However, Espada wouldn’t blame the rotation for Houston’s current position.

“It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster how we've played overall,” he said. “One day we get good starting pitching, some days we don’t. The middle relief has been better and sometimes it hasn’t been. So, we’ve just got to put it all together and then play more as a team. And once we start doing that, we’ll be in good shape.”

The good news for the Astros is that Verlander will make his season debut Friday night when they open a series at Washington and Valdez should return soon after him.

“Framber and Justin have been a great part of our success in the last few years,” second baseman Jose Altuve said. “So, it’s always good to have those two guys back helping the team. We trust them and I think it’s going to be good.”

Hader signed a five-year, $95 million contract this offseason to give the Astros a shutdown 7-8-9 combination at the back end of their bullpen with Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressly. But the five-time All-Star is off to a bumpy start.

He allowed four runs in the ninth inning of a 6-1 loss to the Braves on Monday night and has yielded eight earned runs this season after giving up the same number in 56 1/3 innings for San Diego last year.

He was much better Wednesday when he struck out the side in the ninth before the Astros fell to Atlanta in 10 innings for their third straight loss.

Houston’s offense, led by Altuve, Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker, ranks third in the majors with a .268 batting average and is tied for third with 24 homers this season. But the Astros have struggled with runners in scoring position and often failed to get a big hit in close games.

While many of Houston’s hitters have thrived this season, one notable exception is first baseman José Abreu. The 37-year-old, who is in the second year of a three-year, $58.5 million contract, is hitting 0.78 with just one extra-base hit in 16 games, raising questions about why he remains in the lineup every day.

To make matters worse, his error on a routine ground ball in the eighth inning Wednesday helped the Braves tie the game before they won in extra innings.

Espada brushed off criticism of Abreu and said he knows the 2020 AL MVP can break out of his early slump.

“Because (of) history,” Espada said. “The back of his baseball card. He can do it.”

Though things haven’t gone well for the Astros so far, everyone insists there’s no panic in this team which won its second World Series in 2022.

Altuve added that he doesn’t have to say anything to his teammates during this tough time.

“I think they’ve played enough baseball to know how to control themselves and how to come back to the plan we have, which is winning games,” he said.

The clubhouse was quiet and somber Wednesday after the Astros suffered their third series sweep of the season and second at home. While not panicking about the slow start, this team, which has won at least 90 games in each of the last three seasons, is certainly not happy with its record.

“We need to do everything better,” third baseman Alex Bregman said. “I feel like we’re in a lot of games, but we just haven’t found a way to win them. And good teams find a way to win games. So we need to find a way to win games.”

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome