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‘I love speed, but I’m a pretty safe driver,’ says Aleksandra Wozniak. (Julian Finney/Getty Images)
‘I love speed, but I’m a pretty safe driver,’ says Aleksandra Wozniak. (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

My Car: Aleksandra Wozniak

'I have a lot of space' Add to ...

She's only 21, but she's a rising Canadian star on the tennis court.

Aleksandra Wozniak is Canada's top tennis player - ranked No. 37 in the world on the WTA's women's singles division. She owes some of her success to her coach - her dad Antoni - who also gave her some guidance on the road, too, but his tennis advice seems to stick better than his driving lessons.

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"I took professional driving lessons. Sometimes my dad would teach me, but I need someone more patient than that," laughs the native of Blainville, Que., who is gearing up for the Aug. 15-23 Rogers Cup in Toronto. This week, she's playing in the WTA Premier in Cincinnati.

Wozniak hasn't been driving long - she got her licence at 18 on the first try. Then came a sponsorship deal with Volvo and a C30 hatchback. She moved up the lineup last month to a 2010 Volvo XC60 crossover.

"It's back home right now," she says by telephone from the Los Angeles Women's Tennis Championships. She defeated American Bethanie Mattek-Sands, but lost against Na Li from China, who is ranked 17th in the world.

"I got it in July; when I got back from Wimbledon, I went and picked it up. I wanted a car that's all white. It's classy and I like that."



She's not worried about getting it dirty, either. "With all the rain we had in July, it's so clean. During winter, I don't think I'll have a problem. I'll clean it up - I always take care of my stuff. Usually I like to wash it, but in the winter I'll bring it to Volvo," says Wozniak, whose father was a pro soccer player in his native Poland.

Now he's a mechanic who works night shifts so he can coach his daughter during the day. In 2008, he was named Tennis Canada's coach of the year.

Wozniak doesn't know much about her new wheels. "Inside, there are so many gadgets - it's really different. It holds on good to the road when you turn. It's a sporty car and on the road it's really safe.

"I don't know the difference with other cars. But I know that Volvo is a pretty safe car," she says.

"I love the trunk, because I have a lot of space to hold my tennis racquets, tennis practice stuff. I put it in and when I close the door it shuts by itself with a button. It's easy. So that's what I love the most," she giggles.

Parking the XC60 was challenging at first. "In the beginning, I had to get adjusted because I couldn't see the back. The C30 had the back that's all open with a big window. And this one is higher so I had to adjust to it.

"When I was backing up, I didn't know, am I okay? Are my wheels going to hit the sidewalk? But I'm getting used to it now," says Wozniak, who holds the Canadian Fed Cup record for most total wins and most singles wins.

On the road, she listens to a broad range of music - from dance to rap. "I really love the Dave Matthews Band, Beyoncé, Coldplay, Rihanna - a different mix of music. It all depends how I feel. Sometimes I just like to listen to relaxing music when I'm tired."

Before a match, it's a different story. "I listen to something to pump me up - get me motivated - like dance music or eighties' music."

Wozniak loves the open road. "I did a lot of road trips with my C30 last year. I went to Philadelphia, New Haven, Pittsburgh, New York - I've been to many places. New York was great - it was fun with just my friends. It's really nice when you have freedom and you go wherever you want.

"The best feeling is when I'm in my car alone and driving wherever you want and not asking your parents if you can borrow the car. It's a great feeling - going wherever you want at whatever time. Owning a car is really fun."

At times, she does have a heavy foot. "I love speed, but I'm a pretty safe driver," Wozniak says. "I see sometimes bad drivers - they don't put their signal lights, they pull right in front of you."

But Quebeckers, she says, aren't bad drivers - despite what other Canadians think.

"When we're in traffic, we stay so close together and we always bump into each others bumpers and people say, 'Oh, we're bad drivers, we hit everyone, every time.'

"But it's not true - everywhere else they speed up and pass everyone. But in Quebec we're pretty safe drivers; it's just that we always sit so close in traffic jams and we never speed up. We're all the same speed and it's always jammed all the time," says Wozniak, whose second passion is fashion; she has already started designing her own clothing line.

"When I was younger, I did a lot of road trips. We went to Florida, Arizona and Texas all the way from Montreal. It was a small Nissan car - I can't remember which one. We were driving all around the world and it never broke down," says Wozniak, whose older sister Dorota played U.S. NCAA college tennis and reached a WTA Tour ranking of No. 753 in 1992.

"When we were going through all those places to Florida - their streets are so perfect because there's no winter there so they don't put salt or anything on the road. When it's freezing rain, the roads are slippery. But they're pretty nice. We need some road work in Montreal - but we're getting there."

With or without a sponsorship, if Wozniak could have any car, she'd still stick with the Swedish auto maker. "At the moment, all I want is my Volvo."

globeauto@globeandmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @PetrinaGentile

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