August 18, 2003
Getting to Know Vera Douchevina
At the tender age of 16 years, eight months, Russian Vera Douchevina waved goodbye to her junior career with a runner-up finish at Roland Garros this past June.
Wimbledon and Orange Bowl girls' singles champion in 2002, the Moscow native is the latest in a string of Russian girls making their first tentative, albeit very impressive, steps on the WTA Tour.
Vera, who lists her favorite player as Jennifer Capriati, plays an aggressive, baseline game, similar to that of her idol.
Earlier this year, she was ranked No.1 on the ITF Junior Singles Rankings and in the past few months has been trying her luck in the senior ranks.
Having made her WTA Tour event as an unranked qualifier at Warsaw last year (just her second senior outing), she qualified for the NASDAQ-100 Open in Miami this past March. In the first round she ousted world No.70 Patricia Wartusch 60 63 before putting in a strong showing against Justine Henin-Hardenne, falling 63 62.
A month ago, Vera picked up her first singles title, winning an ITF Women's Circuit tournament in Innsbruck. Under the WTA Tour's 'feed up' system, that win earned her direct entry into the Tier IV Tour event, the Nordea Nordic Light Open in Helsinki, Finland.
Not putting the opportunity to waste, Vera defeated 2002 runner-up Denisa Chladkova in the second round and went all the way to the semifinals, where she fell to talented Croatian Jelena Kostanic.
Having debuted on the WTA Singles Rankings just over a year ago at No.550, Vera is now No.143 with a bullet. Since the start of 2003 she has rocketed up 328 spots.
caught up with Vera during her recent run to the Helsinki semifinals.
How did you get started playing tennis?
My father introduced me to tennis when I was seven years old. He didn't play at all himself, but he wanted both my (older) sister (Sonia) and I to give it a go. My sister didn't really like it very much, but I really liked it.
What other sports did you play when you were younger? Why did you choose tennis over them?
I also used to play football and basketball, in fact I still do. But I liked playing tennis because I like the competition—to play points and tournaments. For me that is one of the best parts of tennis.
What have been your junior highlights so far?
I suppose the biggest win I’ve had is winning the Wimbledon girls' title last year. At the end of last year I also won the Orange Bowl. This year I got to the finals of Roland Garros. That was my last junior tournament.
So you're planning on playing only senior events, now?
Well, I'm only 16, so I can’t play all the time (under the WTA Tour's Age Eligibility Rule), but I'll play some ITF events and also try and play some WTA events as well.
What is the biggest difference between playing juniors and on the WTA Tour?
The competition is so much greater. When you're playing juniors, if you're up 5-love, you've won for sure. But on the Tour you have to fight for every ball. The players here (on Tour) never give up, so you can never think you've won a match until you win the last point.
How much do you practice on a normal training day?
If I'm not at a tournament I probably practice on-court anywhere from half an hour to two hours per day. Then I also do some cross-training for maybe another half an hour to one hour.
What types of things do you do for your cross-training?
Maybe some running. I also like to do some swimming.
As a junior and now as a player on the Tour, you're traveling quite a lot. Do you like all the travel you have to do?
Not really! I like seeing all parts of the world, but the actual travel I don't like so much. To get here (Helsinki) we traveled by train for 12 hours instead of flying. I prefer to travel in a train than to fly. You get to see more as you're going from one place to another.
Do you like to listen to music? If so, what types?
Yes, I really like to listen to music, especially when I'm away from home. I mainly like Russian pop music, but I listen to some American music too. I bought Justin Timberlake's album recently.