The Tennis Week Interview: Vera Zvonareva
The Tennis Week Interview: Vera Zvonareva
Photo By Cynthia Lum By Brad Falkner
Vera Zvonareva crafted a captivating Grand Slam debut on the red clay courts of Roland Garros last year. Playing through qualifying to reach the Roland Garros main draw, Zvonareva advanced to the fourth round where she won the first set against Serena Williams before the eventual French Open champion won 12 of the final 13 games to earn a 4-6, 6-0, 6-1 victory.
Despite the crushing end, Zvonareva had made an impressive start. She followed up her French Open performance by reaching her first WTA Tour final at Palermo.
The hard-hitting Moscow native concluded the 2002 season with a 41-14 record and a year-end ranking of No. 45, which was an improvement of 342 places from her 2001 year-end rank.
This year, the two-time Orange Bowl champion has continued her climb up the rankings to her current rank of No. 33. She has scored wins over Meghann Shaughnessy and Ivan Majoli this season and reached the quarterfinals of the Pacific Life Open before falling to Jennifer Capriati. On Tuesday, Zvonareva beat 2002 Family Circle Cup finalist Patty Schnyder, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 to raise her record to 10-7.
Zvonareva is one of a rapidly growing number of young players emerging from Russia, that is enjoying more than her share of success this year on tour. Zvonareva's striking sky blue eyes illuminate her girlish face, which is often expressive with emotion during our conversation.
While she can be emotionally explosive on the court — occasionally prone to throwing her racquet and yelling at herself after committing an error — I found Zvonareva to be thoughtful, modest, charming and a somewhat shy individual, who expresses herself well in English. Her on court arsenal includes a massive forehand which she can either angle sharply or drive deep into the court.
She is deceptively quick, agile, and possess solid stamina for lengthy clay court rallies. Vera Zvonareva should only get better with experience
Tennis Week: What has been the biggest match or moment in
your tennis development?
Vera Zvonareva: Well, Tuesday's match against Schynder was for sure a great win for me. Patty was playing deep in the court and I was able to hit my angle shots and play inside the court. There were times during the match when I got upset (Zvonareva received a warning for racquet abuse during her match with Schynder, when after losing a point she slammed her racquet into the court). Well actually I got pissed a few times when I lost points that I should have one. When I get angry it doesn't stay with me for long. I can usually refocus for the next point.
TW: Let's talk a little bit about the current state of tennis in Russia. There are now six Russian women ranked inside the top 35 in the world. Do you practice together and do support each other at the tournaments?
VZ: Yes we do support each other. If we have the time, like I did today (Zvonareva had an off day) then we can go and watch each other play. Normally if we are at the same tournament we will practice together. I would say that I am closer to the Russian girls that are near my age (Zvonareva is 18, Elena Bovina is 20, Svetlana Kuznetsova is 17 and Dinara Safina is 16).
TW: Some people might say that a few of the Russian players, well Safin comes to mind, area little passionate about their tennis, would you describe yourself as such?
VZ: You should come to Russia and watch the 12 and under players in the Russian Championships. It is incredible! They are crazy! (laughing) Even the 10 and unders are intense! It's amazing!
TW: Speaking of junior tennis. You are a two-time Orange Bowl champion. Could you please explain the difference between top Junior tennis and the WTA Tour?
VZ: The are many differences. For example you cannot get a way with hitting short balls. If you do they will destroy you. In the pro game you have less time, the ball is coming faster. The whole tempo of play is different. The players are much faster and can anticipate better. Here (on the WTA Tour) they can sense if you are nervous or if you are upset. They take advantage of any weakness that you show on court.
TW: Do you have a favorite surface?
VZ: I grew up playing carpet in Russia. So that is probably my favorite surface. I like playing on all surfaces.
TW: Best and worse aspects of being a professional tennis player?
VZ: I like to travel, but hate planes. For sure the traveling is great. I love playing tennis in so many different locations. I like going to places that have warm weather.