EN, Interview with Sonja Petrovic : « Our bronze in Rio will make this year the best memory of my career »

Sonja Petrovic, the Serbian wing (who is well known in France as a result of the season she spent with Bourges in 2007-2008), has had a busy year… In June 2015 she, along with the rest of her national team, found herself at the summit of European basketball with a stunning EuroBasket gold medal for Serbia in Budapest. Then she spent the regular season with her club team Prague, before going to Phoenix in May to play in the WNBA. To top all that she won a bronze medal in Rio before going back to the USA for the conclusion of the WNBA season. With a few days left before the playoffs, here are Sonja’s thoughts on a truly memorable year.

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Parlons-Basket : What with club and national team commitments it’s been a long season – how do you feel at the moment ?

Sonja Petrovic : Yes, the season has been long and of course there are a lot of ups and downs. I am aware that my body and mind might not always follow my wishes but after success you always feel everything was worth it. So, our bronze in Rio will make this year the best memory ever no matter everything else that happened when I look back.

PB : European champions last summer, third place at the Olympics…Serbian basketball’s doing pretty well, don’t you think ?

SP : Thank you, I always appreciate it when others notice and say it also. I do think we accomplished something amazing and unbelievable for our country.  Getting up there on the top of the women’s basketball world is something extraordinary.

PB : What do you think the difference has been with your generation, how you’ve managed to win medals in two successive international competitions ? Is there a secret to your success ?

SP : There have been a lot of different factors, but the biggest one was clicking at the right time and the right place. It helped that the core of our team, players born ‘87-’90, was finally mature for the biggest stage. But, in the end I think it comes down to our heart and mentality. The fact that we know each of us will dive on the floor for the ball gives us strength and the belief we can play against anybody.

The Serbian’s selfie with medals – Photo : FIBA

PB : You beat France for the bronze medal at the Olympics and at last year’s EuroBasket final. They seem to be a team you know how to play against…

SP : Maybe it’s best to say our style of basketball doesn’t match up. France has an amazing team, they’ve been at the top for so many years. But we play a different game because of the strengths and weaknesses of our team. Therefore we’re probably a hard match up for them.

PB : On a personal level, you finished with the highest player rating in your team (15.4). Does it make you proud to have performed so well on a personal level ?

SP : Every player wants and likes to play good, but I think you will never feel true acomplishment or get recognition if it is not followed by team success. That’s my opinion and that is why I prefer and always choose to play for good teams. Only if you practice and compete with the best can you improve.

PB : Were you always aiming for a medal at the Olympics ? Was that your initial goal ?

SP : The initial and realistic goal was reaching 1/4 finals. But we know our team and we know once we get there anything is possible. The do-or-die games are what our national team loves the most, you can feel the buzz around. So, I think for us the hardest thing was making sure we get through the group stage.

PB : In the quarter-finals, you were drawn against Australia, the hot favourites. And you created a big upset in beating them. Can you tell us a little bit about this match ? Were you expecting to win ?

SP : Well, we didn’t expect it, we knew they were the favourites. We also knew we had no chance if we played their style of basketball. This is the game we prepared the best and the one where we executed the plan of our coaching staff the best.

Photo : FIBA

PB : These were your first Olympic Games. What were your impressions ? What will stay with you the most ?

SP : My impressions were amazing ! The energy, the buzz, being among the best athletes in the world… it is an experience to remember for the rest of your life. You are all the time smiling there, enjoying every single moment, trying to explore everything… But if I had to pick one thing it would be the support within the Serbian Olympic team. All athletes, teams, staff etc are supporting each other and helping each other. For us, being there for the first time, it meant a lot.

PB : Did you manage to meet many of the other athletes there? Are there any particular encounters that stand out for you ?

SP : We met all of the Serbian team and I caught up with my basketball friends. All of the experiences were great.

PB : Have you got any little anecdotes or stories about the Olympics you’re willing to share with us ?

SP : There are a lot, I just wouldn’t know which one to pick out.

PB : Will you keep your Olympic mementoes and souvenirs in a special place (your medal and team uniform etc.) ?

SP : I will keep them for now in a safe place. Probably when I am done with playing I’ll pick my most cherished memories and frame them. No question the Olympic medal and uniform will be amongst them.

Phoenix Mercury’s players in Rio – Photo : FIBA

PB : The WNBA starts back up again this weekend. Your team now has 4 Olympic medallists in it, (Phoenix Mercury – Brittney Griner, Diana Taurasi, Marta Xargay and yourself). Did you all bring your medals with you to training ?

SP : No, they of course brought them since they came directly from Rio to Phoenix. I flew back to Serbia first. We had a public reception in front of 30,000 people and a reception with the President of Serbia. So I left my medal home as I was scared something might happen.

PB : What are the season objectives for Phoenix now ?

SP : Well, I am answering now after we just finished the regular season 8th and made the playoffs. Of course it was an up and down season for us, but the most important thing is we made the playoffs. Now comes the toughest part but I do believe in our team and that only we can beat ourselves.

Photo : WNBA

PB : Playoffs start Thursday, you play against Indiana. What are your feelings before the playoffs ?

SP : The playoffs are always special. We are aware of the results we had during the season and the position we put ourselves in. But it’s one game and anything is possible. So we’ll make sure we bring all our energy to it and hopefully that will be enough to make up for the mistakes we made during the season.

PB : And just to end, on a lighter note, you don’t seem to be able to get away from Marta Xargay…you play with her at Prague, at Phoenix,  you played against her at the Olympics…(#Joke)

SP : Well, I don’t mind at all since she is a great player, teammate and my friend ☺.


Gorditas team!!! #havingfun @sonjapetrovic5 ☺️🍔🍟🍕🌭🍦🍩🍪

Une photo publiée par Marta Xargay Casademont (@martaxargay) le

Many, many thanks to Sonja for taking time out from her busy schedule to talk to us. And we’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate her on her superb Olympic bronze medal and wish her the very best of luck for the WNBA playoffs.

Translation : Rachel Cox

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