Getting To Know… Vera Zvonareva
April 22, 2003
The prized mantle of No.1 Russian currently belongs to world No.11 Anastasia Myskina, but don’t be surprised it this 18-year-old from Moscow isn’t challenging for it some time soon. Vera Zvonareva’s reputation has gone from strength to strength since winning the prestigious Orange Bowl under-18 title for the first of two times in 2000 as a 16-year-old.
After trying her luck on the ITF Women’s Circuit in 2001 (compiling a 12-9 record), Vera played her first full professional season last year. Qualifying for 2002 Roland Garros (only her sixth career WTA Tour main draw), the No.142-ranked Zvonareva defeated three Top 70 opponents to reach the fourth round in her Grand Slam debut.
There in the round of 16 awaited American world No.3 Serena Williams, a rather daunting prospect for someone who’d never previously played anyone ranked higher than No.33.
Nonetheless, Vera came out with all guns blazing, using her punishing groundstrokes to steal the first set from Williams 64. Of ourse, Williams would go on to win that match and the French Open title, but Vera’s efforts thereafter proved she was no flash in the pan.
Shortly after Wimbledon she would reach her first Tour singles final at Palermo, falling to Mariana Diaz-Oliva in three sets. Then, making her US Open debut, Vera reached the third round, where she led world No.7 Kim Clijsters 61 31 before falling in three sets.
By season’s end, Vera had slashed her WTA Singles Ranking from No.371 to No.45, the equal-best improvement on Tour in 2002 alongside fellow Russian teenager Dinara Safina (No.394 to No.68).
Season 2003 began in impressive fashion, reaching the quarterfinals at her first two events at Auckland and Hobart (where she held two match points on eventual champion Alicia Molik).
Stepping up to Tier I level, Vera reached two quarterfinals in three events, at Indian Wells and Charleston, defeating the likes of Shaughnessy, Schnyder and Suárez en route.
Such consistent results have seen Vera’s ranking continue to drift towards Top 20 territory. She currently sits at No.28, the fourth highest-ranked Russian and one of 13 from that nation to be inside the Top 100 this week.
Much has been made of the increasing success of Russian tennis players - male and female - and it appears Vera Zvonareva will only provide more justification for all the hype.
Notes & Netcords recently caught up with Vera to discuss the prosperous state of Russian tennis, her future goals and shopping habits:
In the past few months you’re going into more matches as the favorite and not the underdog. How have you handled that increased pressure?
When I was playing juniors, I had the same pressure. So I knew a little how to handle it. It’s tougher and harder now, but I still try to do my best on-court.
Out of the Russian teenagers currently making their mark on the WTA Tour (alongside Kuznetsova, Safina and Krasnoroutskaya), you’re currently the highest ranked at No.28.Is there a little bit of competition amongst all of you to do better than each other?
I want all the Russians to do well. It’s competitive for everyone, not just Russians. I still want to be the best, no matter who else is around. But I am really happy when the Russians do well. I grew up with Safina and Kuznetsova and we’ve been at the same tournaments for years.
Many players say they’re most favorite place to visit is home, because they spend so little time there. Apart from home, where in the world would you like to go if you had a couple of weeks off without having to train?
Besides home? I guess somewhere in Russia next to the Black Sea. That way I’m still in my country.
In the 2003 Media Guide you list a 60 60 loss to Nadia Petrova at the age of 8 as your most memorable experience.Since coming onto the Tour, has anything replaced that?!
Yes, playing Serena Williams the first time. That was the first time I played a Top 10 player. I played her at the French Open last year (taking her to three sets) and then she won the tournament!
What CDs are you listening to at the moment?
Russians CDs, Russian pop music. I like regular pop music here in the States, but I don’t know who they are - I just like the songs. I also like old Russian music, from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.
If you ever daydream about what you’re going to achievein your professional tennis career, what is the one thing (atournament victory, ranking goal) you hope will cometrue?
Winning the Kremlin Cup in Moscow, my home city.
If you were going to treat yourself to something after asuccessful tournament, what would you buy?
That’s hard because everyday I want something different! But after I won the Orange Bowl I bought myself a scooter. That was fun!
VERA ZVONAREVA FACT BOX
Born: 7 September 1984 in Moscow, Russia
Lives: Moscow, Russia
Plays: Right-handed (two-handed backhand)
WTA Ranking: No.28 (singles); No.624 (doubles)
Career highlights: Runner-up 2002 Palermo; fourth round 2002 RolandGarros; quarterfinalist 2003 Indian Wells and Charleston; winnerof 18/u Orange Bowl in 2000 and 2001