The real Elena D. "I think Nastya and I should open a jeans shop".
Article in “Tennislife” mag, April 2006
Elena Dementieva is not the sort of tennis player you associate with bling or running up huge credit card bills while indulging her voracious appetite for shopping. Yet, as serious as her game face is, she happily admits that she is every bit as much of a shopaholic glamorpuss as the next blonde, Russian tennis player.
“My shopping weakness is definitely jeans,” she says, with a somewhat guilty laught. “Oh, yeah, I go straight to the Levis store. I have so many pairs that I think Anastasia Myskina [fellow Russian and her 2004 French Open nemesis] and I should open a jeans shop. She’s a big fan of jeans too. My legs are a bit longer than hers so we can’t wear the same jeans anymore, but when we were younger we used to swap clothes all the time – she’d give something to me I’d give something to her but now we are two different sizes and two different tastes so we don’t do that anymore. My mum can’t understand why I bought so many pairs of jeans because they all loo, the same to her.”
Dementieva’s mother, Vera, is her coach and a constant companion on the road with her, always wishing her luck before matches and, where necessary, being there to pick up the emotional piece in the locker room after a tough loss.
“After I lost The French Open final, I said that I was too depressed to go and celebrate. I felt too disappointed. But my mum said ‘Listen, you were in your first grand slam final, you should be proud of yourself, you did a big thing in your life, that’s the big moment and you have to be happy for yourself’” says Dementieva. “When I need to escape I just talk to mymum. She’s very quiet and very smart, and she knows me very well so she knows exactly what to say and right moment to say it. I’m just so lucky to have her with me. Every time I’m really nervous or something bothers me, I’m try to find her and it really helps me.”
When she isn’t shopping or getting herself into trouble with Mom by buying jeans, Dementieva can be found on various trails, indulging her love of winter sports, some of which are extreme enough to must give her insurance company palpitations. “In the off-season I like skiing, skating, snowboarding. My favourite time is the winter and so I’m glad the off-season is during the winter because I love the snow. I go to visit my grandparents in Latvia, which is not very far from my home in Russia. None of it is very dangerous, really. I don’t do mountain skiing. I mean snow-boarding is quite dangerous but cross-country skiing and skating aren’t too bad.”
Being able to shop with impunity and enjoy holidays in the snow are the sort of pursuits that the other young millionairesses on the tour might take for granted, but as much as Dementieva likes the finer things in life, her memories of Russian austerity as she was growing up are still fresh enough to ensure she doesn’t take her privileges for granted.
“I still remember the time when I had only one racket and that’s why I don’t like to smash my racket when I’m on the court. I might have plenty in my racket bag but I still remember the time when my parents spent all their money to buy me a wooden racket for my first one to go to the tennis court,” she says. “I wouldn’t forget that. It’s a funny time to remember now because we were washing the balls after each practice. We couldn’t find a skirt for me to play a match so we bought a long skirt and then my mum just cut it in the way I needed. She is still quite good at sewing, but she doesn’t get so much practice now!”
Her mother’s devotion to duty does at least give Dementieva an excuse to hit the shops again. “We don’t have Mother’s Day in Russia, but we do have Women’s Day,” she says, spotting an opportunity for some retail therapy. “I guess I’m going to have to buy her a really big present!”