Calcutta: Elena Likhovtseva, the current women’s world No. 16, is in the city to participate in the Sunfeast Open. The 30-year-old Russian is loving every moment of her stay here. She loves the courts which are “not too fast, not too slow. Just right for me.” She took part in a fashion show on Tuesday and had “good fun”.
Despite a tight schedule, Likhovtseva took out time to answer a few questions posed by The Telegraph.
The following are excerpts
Q : The Russian brigade is storming the world now. How close are all the Russian women on the Tour? Are you good friends? Do you hang out a lot together?
A: We are a close bunch, yes. We communicate well and when travelling, we go out to restaurants and other places of interest together, whenever we have the time. Which is, of course, not very often, as it is very hectic on the Tour. We are a support for each other in times of need.
But I believe there is a problem as far as Maria Sharapova is concerned? She does not play the Fed Cup and it is heard that she has problems with some of the players?
Well, Maria is a star. She is the world No. 1 and her engagements are numerous. However, she is supposed to take part in the Kremlin Cup and she has also expressed a desire to play in the Fed Cup in 2006. Whatever problem, if there was any, has been sorted out.
Russia won the Fed Cup but you weren’t a part of the team despite being a high-ranked player. Do you you feel aggrieved?
I’m naturally disappointed, but no complaints whatsoever. The federation is right. The people who play the earlier ties and the semi-finals deserve to play in the final, too. It was a great match in Paris and I wish I were there to cheer the team. I’m really proud of the girls.
Is it right to say that you are more of a doubles player in spite of being in the top-20 in singles?
Well, it just happened that the right doubles partners kept me on top of the rankings for a long time. But right now I am concentrating more on singles. My doubles ranking has fallen too. So, I hope to be able to get rid of the ‘doubles’ label soon.
(Likhovtseva eased into the quarter finals on Thursday, defeating Sunitha Rao 6-3, 6-1.)
What are you doing to improve your singles record? Are you taking any special steps?
I’ve been training with Samuel Sumyk for more than a year now. Not for every tournament, but mainly before the big meets. We complement each other well and he believes in me. I think his coaching and support will go a long way in improving my game.
Likhovtseva in Calcutta on Thursday.
Picture by Amit Datta
Would it be right to say that women’s tennis is top-heavy, that is, after the top-20 or top-30 there’s no depth?
It isn’t quite right to say so. I feel the top-50 — or even the top-100 — women are good players. The Grand Slam first rounds are really tough. The level of the game has picked up and there is tough competition from the very beginning.
To be away from the family for a considerable part of the year must be tough, isn’t it?
It is. My husband tries and travels with me as much as possible. But often for long periods I am away from him and it is tough. There are times when I long for home. In 2006, I intend cutting down on the number of tournaments.
(Incidentally, Likhovtseva celebrated her sixth wedding anniversary on Wednesday, miles away from her husband).
If there is one person who can be said to have been the inspiration behind this Russian revolution, who would it be?
Without a doubt Yevgeny Kafelnikov. He helped raise the level of tennis in Russia. And outside tennis if I have to single someone out, it would probably be Boris Yeltsin.
The last question. Free time must be at a premium. When you do have some time at your disposal, what do you do?
I just prefer to sit back and watch television, that’s all. And occasionally read a book or two.