Feature: Mystical Myskina
Stressful weeks for Anastasia Myskina: tourneys in Filderstadt, Linz, Philadelphia, the master in L.A. As usual the players attend the players lounges. At the table next to us Martina Navratilova is eating pasta. Just a few steps down you´ll find Kim Clijsters and her father Leo sitting on crème-coloured sofas. Myskina has became one of the main attractions on the tour by now as well. It´s just that no one has noticed it though she´s in the top ten since this year´s beginning. At the end of september she won two very highly acclaimed tourneys in a row, Leipzig and Moscow.
Now that she´s succesful, does she feels like a star? Anastasia Myskina (22) smiles. Actually she smiles a lot. It´s not a superior smile, not a clarified smile, but more a shy one. The longer you talk to her, the faster you realize that she has nothing in common with fellow country-woman Anna Kournikova and the other latest export-success Maria Sharapova. Myskina seems to be rather conserved, thoughtful, a little bit mystical, but most of all she´s very polite. When you talk to her she permanently looks at you and she even waits patiently, when I had to check the recorder for a second time to make sure it´s really working.
So, is she a star? “No, definetly not”, she says in english with a slight russian accent. Coquetry? Understatement? When she beat Amelie Mauresmo in the final of her home-town tourney in Moscow, it was definetly a different image: Boris Jelzin rushed to the court to give Myskina a hug and the russian sports-station “Sport” sent out those pictures all over the world. On the next day she was even invited to the Kreml. It was Vladimir Putin who personally invited her over. It was a dream coming true for Myskina, who was actually a ballkid at the age of eight at that tourney.
Still, she doesn´t see herself as a sole act, but as a part of a groupe:”Russian sports-pros are very succesful at the moment – not only in tennis. I am just one of them.” She´s definetly right with that statement. Eight russians are currently in the Top 35 of the WTA-Tour – Elena Dementieve, Vera Zvonareva, Nadia Petrova…the reason for success? “We are all very ambitious and everyone tries to be better than the others”, says Myskina. At the end of the year, she was the best russian,
There´s not one russian who has more success…
Her biography is similar to all the other russians. At the age of six, Anastasia (“I was named after the grandmother of my father”) started her career at the famous Moscow Spartak Club, just 20 minutes away from the rented flat in which she lived with her father Andrey, an engineer and her mother Galina. Actually she still lives there when she´s back home in Moscow. Just like all the other young aspiring tennis players, she was coached by Raouza Islanova, the mother of Marat Safin. Well, coached is not exactly the right word, better say sharpened.
Coached by the mother of Marat Safin
“She was very strict, We had to hit balls for hours. She yelled at us, she screamed at us. But without her, there would be no tennis player called Myskina today.” For ten years Islanova was Myskina´s coach. Then she left for spain with her son Marat and her daughter Dinara, but Myskina stayed in the “Kournikova-factory”. “That´s bullshit,” Myskina suddenly says. She dislikes this label which the english yellow-press created. “Kournikova only played there for two/three years. Then she went off to America.” It seems like as if she dislikes her fellow country-woman, but this is not true:”She´s a nice person, but I don’t want to become like her.”
There was one moment when there was a similarity. She appeared for the Lifestyle-Magazine GQ in New York, naked on the back of a horse. You barely see anything, but still that pic would fit into the section “erotic stuff”. “Why wouldn´t you want to do it?”, the slim russian asks me, “the shots were fun.” It was Myskina´s first and up-to-date only contact with the show-biz. Being on court is definetly the thing which counts the most for her. Sometimes the easy, power-saving game and the perfect eye and the double-handed backhand of the 1,74 m tall woman reminds one a bit at Marcelos Rios. Robert Landsdorp (ex-coach of Pete Sampras and Lindsay Davenport) who sometimes worked with Myskina before the US-season started, once said:”She will never become a Top 5-player if she doesn´t hit harder and stand closer to the baseline.” It´s time for the great coach to rethink everything. In the final of Leipzig Myskina beat world number one Justine Henin-Hardenne mostly by using a lot of brilliant tactics.
A date in Florida
Landsdorp is irrelevant by now since she doesn´t need to go to California anylonger. The current coach is called Jens Gerlach, he´s German. They both met last spring in Florida. Gerlach, who once played for STG Geroksruhe in the second League (note by Yee Wah: never heard of that city )
and already coached the german player Bianka Lamade, was a student in Miami, he majored in Sports-Psychology (another note by me: you failed in all classes didn´t you?)
. In order to earn some extra money he offered himself to be a sparring-partner – one of the players he worked with was Anastasia Myskina. Interestingly she didn´t only have fun at their matches, but she started to become fascinated by the person as well. One day she asked him out for dinner (another note: woman asking man out… !).
Eventually he said yes and since that day they are an item. It took a few more months though until he also became her coach, because they both had to convince Myskina´s strict father who was travelling with her all the time.
In the case if he wasn´t satisfied by that decision, he should be more than satisfied by now: With Gerlach being her coach, Myskina has won five out of her six tourney-wins. Now, after the long season 2003, she just wants to sleep (“During the season I just can´t relax”), to read (russian literature and criminal stories) and to play with her dog Gorde, a Scottish Setter.
She definetly deserves a rest. “Thank you so much”, Myskina says after our talk. Taking into consideration that she´s a tennis player, she´s remarkably polite and friendly.