View Full Version : Russian women corner the market on tennis

Mar 8th, 2007, 10:12 AM
Russian women corner the market on tennis

Column by Art Spander

Inside Bay Area
Article Last Updated:03/08/2007 02:36:53 AM PST

INDIAN WELLS — That the United States is a declining power in many sports it once dominated may not be a concern, but surely it should be of interest.
The failing was thrust in our faces last weekend by "Play," subtitled the New York Times Sports Magazine, offering a cover photo of a female tennis player.
A Russian female tennis player, of course.
Her name is Elena Dementieva, and — could this be yet another cover jinx, rivaling Sports Illustrated's? — she withdrew from the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells on Wednesday because of cracked ribs.
Unfortunate, especially since she reached the semifinals last year, but that didn't detract from her observations or her status.
Or her country's status.
Are athletes born or created? And why all of a sudden are all the great women tennis players Russian; all the great baseball players Dominican; all the great golfers, aside from that man Tiger, seemingly all British or European?
Didn't we once have people such as Billie Jean King and Henry Aaron and Jack Nicklaus? What has happened? Why has it happened?
Daniel Coyle traveled to the Spartak Tennis Club in Moscow where Dementieva, at age 7, started playing the game. His story in "Play," emphasizes some of what we knew, hard work and determination are contributing factors, and some of what we didn't, superior athletes have more of a substance called myelin, which sheaths nerve fibers, than do the rest of us.
Talent? We have 300 million people in the U.S. Some of us ought to be able to hit a decent forehand or a cut fastball. But do we care about success, as much as the eastern Europeans care about tennis or the Caribbean nations about baseball? Apparently not.
In 2001, Dementieva was the only Russian woman ranked among the world's top 30. Now there are six in the top 12. Maria Sharapova is at the top; Svetlana Kuznetsova, fifth; Nadia Petrova, sixth, Dementiva, eighth; Anna Chakvetadze, 11th; and Dinara Safina 12th. And, as the Russians did in 2001, there's only one American in the top 30, Serena Williams at 15th.
"The U.S. has the best clubs and academies," said Dementieva, "and I think people all around are trying to come here to be good players. So (a lack of facilities and coaching) is not the reason there are not many American players."
"How to Build a Prodigy," was a headline on the Coyle story. And yet, taking a Moscow subway to an aging building with one indoor court is not the only way. Kuznetsova grew up in St. Petersburg, Sharapova was born in Siberia but emigrated to Florida and the Nick Bollettieri Academy at age 7.
"It's not the clubs or academies," said Kuznetsova. She won the 2004 U.S. Open singles, defeating Dementieva in the final. Not long ago, that event was the property of Serena and Venus Williams.
"You don't need something like this in the United States," Kuznetsova explained. "What you need is to indicate to your kids the value of money. If we don't do something with our lives, we don't have anything. My parents pushed me, but when I grew up, I started to understand the meaning of hard work."
Joe DiMaggio said a kid had to be hungry to become a great ballplayer.
Are we too linked to iPods and shopping malls to need to work up a sweat? Is playing a video game an adequate substitute to playing a real game? Or does America simply present its youth too many options?
"I think there are so many sports in the United States," said Sharapova, a month from her 20th birthday. A two-time Grand Slam champion, she has lived in Florida a dozen years and speaks almost flawless English.
Maria earned $30 million in endorsements alone last year. Yet she remembers when there was very little. And keeps her single-minded focus.
"My friends here they play basketball," said Sharapova, "then it is baseball season. I can't keep up. This country gives you so many opportunities.
"In Russia, people live pretty far from the training facilities. You have to make a commitment to do something. Figure skating. Gymnastics. That will be your sport. Maybe it is better in the United States, to play a lot of sports. But if you are going to go the professional level, you have to be dedicated to one thing."
As Coyle pointed out, at Spartak they don't talk about "playing" tennis but "borot'sya." To struggle.
Art Spander can be reached at typoes@aol.com (typoes@aol.com).


Mar 8th, 2007, 10:46 AM
interesting article

Mar 8th, 2007, 10:47 AM
How can having too many options detract from pursuing tennis in the US. There are 300 million people, surely 10 000 people can be found who are keen on tennis.

Mar 8th, 2007, 06:49 PM
Lena made the IW final last year, not just the SF.

La Abuela
Mar 8th, 2007, 07:30 PM
I think the quote in this mornings L.A. Times Sport section says it all. They quote Petrova as saying that the Russians have more desire to get out of "downstairs" and get their share of the good things in life. And who can blame them?

Mar 9th, 2007, 12:26 PM
Successful run for Russians

Patti Myers (http://www.thedesertsun.com/apps/pbcs.dll/personalia?ID=1184)
The Desert Sun
March 9, 2007
INDIAN WELLS - The Russians are coming, but Svetlana Kuznetsova hopes there's more to come.

With six players currently ranked in the top 12, the Russian women dominate the pro circuit, but world No. 4 Kuznetsova is looking for more.
"I am happy for all of us," said Kuznetsova, who is seeded second at the Pacific Life Open behind No. 1 and fellow Russian Maria Sharapova as part of the Russian movement here at Indian Wells Tennis Garden this week. "The more Russians, the better."
Defending champion Sharapova won six hard court events last year, including the U.S. Open and is the face of the game. The other countrywomen are working their way into the spotlight. If Kuznetsova plays through the draw here, there could be a second consecutive all-Russian final.
The first all-Russian final was here last year between Sharapova and world No. 8 Elena Dementieva. With Dementieva out of the tournament with a rib injury, Kuznetsova could be the one to watch.
In five tournaments this season, she has appeared in one semifinal (Dubai) and one final (Doha) and says she's confident in her game. She's looking for a run that would give her the best-ever finish here in her fourth appearance. She's twice advanced to the quarterfinals.
"I fell good, I'm playing good," she said. "I work hard."
Another Russian that would make a run is fourth-seeded Nadia Petrova, who posted a career-best season in 2006.
"I feel my game has improved and I'm changing as a player," said Petrova, who won five titles in 2006 and won Paris (indoors) this season. "I have the right team around me, keep it balanced and I'm really having fun right now. I'm more natural out there and I've learned to accept losses or bad days."

Petrova says the best is yet to come.

"If I can put in 100 percent effort, with my abilities, I think I can do much more like I did last year. I don't look back at something I have to defend, but believe you want to do that same thing - but do things better."
Both agree that there are so many talented Russian players to come, but like in other countries, it depends not only on talent, but drive.
"My parents taught me to work hard, you have to be hungry," said Kuznetsova. "It's the same with the kids in Russia.
Anna Chakvetadze, who is just outside the Top 10, at No. 11, says it makes her proud to see the Russian contingent in the forefront.
"I am proud of that," she said. "I know they had to fight hard to get there." Both Sharapova and Chakvetadze play today in first-round matches.


Mar 9th, 2007, 12:39 PM
Sveta, babe, is such a sweetie. How can anyone not love her? :kiss:

Mar 9th, 2007, 12:40 PM
Nadia :lol: this is the third time in the past year she's saying these words about the right team around her ;)

Mar 9th, 2007, 02:39 PM
Nadia :lol: this is the third time in the past year she's saying these words about the right team around her ;)
Very true. I hope this team stays with Nadia for a while.