With a pan or racket in hand, Petrova knows how to create
By Jerry Magee
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
July 30, 2006
CARLSBAD – In a house on a hill overlooking the La Costa Resort and Spa, a guest of the family the other night whipped up a mean salmon dish.
Cooking, it seems, is another of Nadia Petrova's skills. She possesses so many that she properly can be described as a renaissance woman, able to do just about anything athletically while she finds joy in the sea and in those around her.
Mostly, Petrova is a tennis player. In her bloodlines are the strength of her father, a hammer thrower, and the speed of her mother, a 400-meter runner who won a bronze medal for Russia in the Montreal Olympics. With genes like these, Nadia had a number of options concerning how she would express herself in sports.
She was such an accomplished swimmer growing up in Moscow that she said her instructors wanted her to pursue a future in swimming. “But my mother didn't like the idea of me spending all that time in the water because of the chlorine,” she said. “I'm quite happy she didn't, because otherwise I wouldn't be playing tennis.”
In the Acura Classic, Petrova is the No. 3 seed, behind only Kim Clijsters and Maria Sharapova, for an event that would seem to offer her a strong championship chance. Her draw is a demanding one, with Nicole Vaidisova, at 17 a coming star, in her quarter, but Petrova has the serve and the overall game to play with anyone when she gets it going, as she did when she sped through a 15-match winning streak before the French Open.
At Roland Garros, an injured Petrova was ambushed by Akiko Morigami of Japan 6-2, 6-2. Wimbledon represented an opportunity for her to re-establish herself. But she was denied a chance to compete in London by a right hip injury. It occurred after she had developed a right pectoralis strain.
“The body knows best,” said Nadia. “You can't force your body to do something it doesn't want to do. Maybe I had been trying to play too much tennis.”
At La Costa, Petrova will be competing for the first time in two months. Preparing for the $1.34 million event, she has been staying at Saundra and Bill's house near La Costa. The couple's last name is omitted at Saundra's request, the lady of the house not wishing to reveal Nadia's whereabouts.
Coming to La Costa a year ago, Petrova said she intended to spend two weeks in the lodge here, but it was mentioned to her that she had the option of choosing quarters at a private residence. It turned out to be the home where she again is staying.
“I absolutely love her,” said Saundra. “She has such a great personality, and she's a fabulous cook. She's good at everything she does, and she's not just fabulous athletically; she is as nice as she could possibly be.”
About that salmon dish. Think of it as “Salmon Petrova,” Said Saundra:
“You put salmon in a pan with all these vegetables on top of it, like leeks and onions and carrots and peapods, with seasoning, and cover it with water. The salmon cooks in the broth, and you can either eat it with or without the broth. Fabulous.”
To her home during the Acura Classic a year ago, Saundra invited the tournament's ball boys and ball girls, whose activities she coordinates. “Nadia went to a pantry and found these marshmallows, and we roasted marshmallows over a fire pit,” said Saundra.
Before this season, Petrova, 24, a tennis tourist since 1999, had won just one tournament. As she thinks of it, her game had been “going through a period of development.” In the spring, everything clicked; she ran off tournament triumphs at Doha, Amelia Island, Charleston and Berlin.
Following those successes, Nadia said she felt she was positioned to capture a Grand Slam tournament. “It was in the back of my mind,” she said. She didn't get it, but for her there are triumphs away from tennis courts. How many women on the tour can do what she can with salmon?