GTK... Vesna Manasieva
LONDON, England -
Like so many young players, Vesna Manasieva
- who turns 20 on July 21 - hasn't found the transition from the juniors to the senior ranks all that easy. Life has been a whirl of ITF Circuit events and Tour qualifying events, with injuries hindering her progress.
But last month the sprightly Muscovite surprised herself by qualifying for her first Grand Slam main draw on Wimbledon's grass, where she lost a nail-biter in the first round to the equally youthful but vastly more experienced Timea Bacsinszky
of Switzerland, 8-6 in the third set. Since then there has been a semifinal run at an ITF event in Spain, and this weekend she is among the hopefuls contesting the qualifying rounds of the Banka Koper Slovenia Open
spoke to Vesna right after she had qualified for Wimbledon.
How did you get started in tennis?
I started playing tennis when I was three. I saw on TV a tennis match and I told my parents I wanted to play, so they bought the racquet and tennis balls for me. Actually I don't remember it but my grandmother says it was the first matches of Lindsay Davenport… she had just started to play.
What's your coaching situation at present?
My coach back home in Russia is Tatiana Solovieva, but I don't have anyone on the road with me - just my mom. She helps me with my off-court training, throws me balls, keeps me motivated, and so on.
Tell us more about your family.
I'm an only child, so aside from my mom, Ekaterina, there's my dad, Ratko, who's a director in a company.
How far did you go in your schooling?
I finished high school and now I'm in my second year of studying physical education at university in Moscow.
Do you have a favorite tournament?
I really fell in love with the Pattaya Open in Thailand. The hotel is very comfortable, the courts are right there and the people are lovely - it's a very good organization. I felt very good there… and made it to the quarterfinals last year. Of course, I held match point against Bychkova in the second set tie-break, so I should have done even better!
What do you enjoy about life on the Tour?
I think when you win a match it's the best, because you are practising for this moment most of the time.
What don't you like?
I'm a big fan of tennis, so I don't really have things I don't like. That said, I don't really like some aspects of training, like running, but I do it anyway!
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to read books and hang out with my friends. My boyfriend, Arsen, is in Moscow so when I'm there we spend time together. He can't travel with me because of his work but hopefully some time in the future he will.
What's your favorite shot?
Is there a player from the past who you wish you could have played?
VM: Justine Henin
. That was my dream, so it was a big pity for me when she retired.
So you're hoping she follows Kim Clijsters with a comeback?
Yes, I want that!
If you could steal a shot from another player, what would you choose?
I'd like Serena's serve, or Venus's. Either sister would do.
What do you feel you need to improve about your game to take the next step up?
I think I need to learn to play with more slice, drop shots, generally mix things up a bit. In particular I need to volley more; I don't like to volley so much, but I am working on this.
You're still fairly new to the Tour - who would you most like to play?
I want to play against somebody from the Top 10 - that's my dream at the moment as I've never played anybody so highly ranked. It would be very interesting for me, to see how my game compares.
You qualified for Wimbledon and it is your first Grand Slam main draw - how do you feel about that?
I'm very happy, and it was a big surprise for me because I really didn't expect to get to the main draw on grass.
What's your goal for this year?
You know, I'm not making any goals, because for a year and a half I've had quite a black time - I was getting injured and ill - so now I'm taking things match by match. I just want to be able to play.