Getting To Know... Nina Bratchikova
PARIS, France - A few years ago, Nina Bratchikova's career was in limbo. Struggling for motivation and results, the big-hitting Russian's was disillusioned with life and tennis.
Then she met a new coach, moved to Portugal and started to enjoy her tennis again. The results soon followed. Fast forward 18 months and Bratchikova is in the third round of Roland Garros and has a date with Petra Kvitova to look forward to.
And after booking her spot in the last 32, wtatennis.com sat down with the 26-year-old to talk comebacks, classics and surfing.
Can you tell us about where you grew up back in Russia?
NB: I'm from a university city called Zhukovsky. The city has two main universities for aircrafts and it's all about aviation there; during August every year we have a famous air show called "Max".
Can you tell us a little bit about your family?
NB: My mother is a dentist and her name is Yulia, and my father, Oleg, is a businessman. I also have one half-sister and one half-brother. My sister is 15 and trying to play tennis seriously, and my brother is studying at the university and is 23.
How did you first get into tennis?
NB: At first my parents brought me to the tennis school when I was seven. They actually wanted me to do athletics, which is very popular in Zhukovsky, but you could only join the athletics group when you were nine. But they were taking kids for tennis from seven so I started to play that. When I was a bit older my coaches at school tried to take me to athletics, as they thought I had some potential. But I don't know if I agree with them!
How was your progress as a junior?
NB: Well, I was practicing at the tennis club from seven, as I said, and when I got to about 12 I started to take it more or less serious - I was practicing every day and I started to play some junior tournaments. It was going quite good and I was having some good results in Russia and so I started to go abroad. I wasn't so successful at first and got a few bagels against some more experienced girls, but eventually I caught up with their level and things got a bit better.
Can you tell us about your coaching set up?
NB: My coach is Pedro Pereira and we have been working together for one year and a half, more or less. I met him in Portugal and he is a good friend of an old coach of mine. When I met him, my tennis was really going down and I wasn't enjoying playing anymore and then he asked me if I needed some help. Quite soon after we started working together I won a $25k challenger and since then it's worked amazingly good for us and I'm enjoying my tennis again.
Are you based in Portugal now?
NB: Yes, I'm training in the south of Portugal in a little town called Tavira. It's an amazing place there: nice, quiet, beautiful beaches and a really great quality of life.
How would you describe your playing style?
NB: I like to hit the ball hard, that's what I think I do the best. My forehand and my serve are the best shots for me, although I think technically and tactically I can adapt to most situations and styles on court. If I need to, I can defend - although it's not my favorite thing to do - slice, come to the net, play top spin. But, still, my favorite thing is just to hit the ball hard!
Are there any areas of your game that you're looking to work on?
NB: I would like to improve my fitness levels and keep as healthy as I can because at the moment I'm really enjoying playing tennis and want to stay playing at the level I've reached now for as long as possible.
Who inspired your tennis as you were growing up?
NB: I always loved Steffi Graf. Even though our styles are totally different, I just loved how she played. At home I also had a poster of Kafelnikov, who for me was also a great champion.
What is the highlight of your career so far?
NB: Well, not counting what is going on this week, I would say Australia, where I won against Flavia Pennetta in the first round of the main draw of the Australian Open. It was my first Grand Slam main draw and first win so it was very exciting.
What are your goals for your tennis career?
NB: I don't like to make long-term goals because life is a little bit unpredictable sometimes, so I would just like to keep enjoying tennis as long as I can. And I would like to make my goal to stay healthy.
How did you get on at school?
NB: Actually, I finished the high school, and I've already finished at the university too. There I was studying physical education but my education stopped when I graduated there two years ago.
If you hadn't been a tennis player, what career path would you have chosen?
NB: I think I would have been a dentist like my mother.
What do you like to do to relax away from the tennis court?
NB: Because I live next to the beach, I love to go there. I surf a little bit. Well, maybe I cannot call it surfing yet, but I like to stay in the water with a board!
What is your favorite book?
NB: I really, really love to read and, when I'm not surfing, it's what I like to do in my spare time. So far, the book which impressed me the most was by Wiśniewski, the Polish author, Lonliness On The Net, I think it's called this in English. But I like the classical stuff also.
And how about your favorite music?
NB: I like everything. My favorite is rock, but it depends on my mood. My favorite band is probably Nickleback
Where is your favorite city?
NB: Well, I love Paris definitely, it's very beautiful and I love to be here, but my favorite city is where I'm living in Portugal.
If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would it be?
If you could meet one person, who would it be?
NB: Hmmm, that's a tough question. I think I would love to meet some person from the past. Maybe Pushkin.