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Getting To Know… Elena Dementieva
September 23, 2003


Dwi Ari Setyadi

Presented by:


Two weeks. Two titles. That’s Elena Dementieva’s September wrapped up in four words. Resurgence. That describes the last six months.

A US Open semifinalist and Olympic silver medallist at age 18, Top 10-ranked at 19, the athletic Russian was quickly touted as a Grand Slam contender and potential No.1, possibly before she was ready to accept such labels.

As season 2000 rolled into 2001, the results, and seemingly the confidence, appeared to plateau. From May 2001 until just two weeks ago, Dementieva’s ranking hovered in the teens and even spent a few weeks outside the Top 20.

Four finals appearances produced four runner-up finishes, leaving some tennis watchers wondering whether the Moscow native would ever return to the lofty heights of the Top 10.

Those critics have been dismissed time and again this year—first in April, when the now-21-year-old Dementieva (who turns 22 on 15 October) took her first WTA Tour singles title in Amelia Island.

After beating then-world No.9 Daniela Hantuchova in the quarterfinals, she saved a match point to beat No.4 Justine Henin-Hardenne in the semis and recovered from a 64 42 deficit to beat No.5 Lindsay Davenport in the final.

That emotional and momentous week alone pushed Elena back into the Top 20, up from No.21 to No.13. Add to that fourth round showings at Wimbledon and the US Open and semifinal finishes in Toronto and New Haven, and Dementieva left the US and headed to Asia back in the Top 10.

Not content with that achievement, Dementieva set out to build on her successes. And build she did, dropping just one set in nine matches over the past two weeks to win the Wismilak International in Bali, Indonesia and the Polo Open Shanghai in China, defeating Chanda Rubin in both finals.

Twenty-nine months after reaching No.9 in the world for the first time, Dementieva surpassed that last Monday and now ranks amongst the best eight players in the world.

Just moments after her victory in Shanghai, Elena Dementieva spoke with Notes & Netcords about the value of selfconfidence and enjoying her success.

Elena, firstly, congratulations on a marvelous couple of weeks. You started the year without a WTA Tour singles title to your name—now you have three!

Well, winning that first title earlier this year gave me a lot of confidence. When I went to Amelia Island I didn’t think I had a chance to win that tournament, because in the tournaments before it—Acapulco, Indian Wells and Miami—I was playing pretty badly and I had some tough losses.

I’d been working pretty hard but up until Amelia Island it hadn’t really meant good results on the court. Especially because Amelia Island is a very popular tournament—it gets a lot of the top players—so I didn’t think it was my tournament to win. But then I beat three Top 10 players (Hantuchova, Henin- Hardenne, Davenport), and it was an amazing feeling.

That extra confidence no doubt helped you get through these two weeks.

For sure. When I went to Bali I had this feeling I could win the tournament, and I never would have had that feeling if I didn’t win Amelia Island. Because I knew what it was like to win a title, I knew I could do it again. It’s OK to get to semifinals and finals, but it’s a different feeling to actually win the title. So now I believe I should win these tournaments and be a Top 10 player again.

On that subject, you recently returned to the Top 10 after more than a two-year absence. Has it been more special this time than the first?

I was saying to my mom recently that when I first got to the Top 10, I was 19 years old and I didn’t really understand how big that was. It all happened too fast and I didn’t enjoy it. So to do it again, and knowing that it takes a lot of hard work, I understand it better this time and for sure I’m enjoying the moment a lot more.

Have you managed to celebrate this great achievement, of getting back into the Top 10, yet?

Not really—I haven’t had time yet, because I was playing Bali and then of course Shanghai. After the final in Bali we went out for dinner with Chanda and her coach (Benny Sims) and Benny was trying to teach me the salsa, but I was so bad at it. I’m going to have to have lessons before I try it again!

With all the hard work you put in, do you allow yourself some days off when you’re not at a tournament?

Absolutely. When I’m in Moscow, and if I’ve just come back from overseas and I’m tired, I’ll have a day off. I like to spend time with all my family—we go to a country house we have in the forest about an hour outside of Moscow and get together, which is really nice.

We hear that you have a favorite racquet that you use almost all the time in matches? Can you explain why this is so?

Well, after I lost in Miami, one of the Russian male players was playing around with one of my racquets, putting different weights on it. I used it in Sarasota and Charleston, and really liked it, and then I won Amelia Island with it, so now it’s also my lucky racquet! I realize I can’t use it forever—that it’s going to wear out eventually because I’m using it so much—but it’s been difficult to try and put the same weights on other racquets.

I’ll use that one as long as I can.

Your results this year, especially in the past two weeks, have put you in a great position to qualify for the WTA Tour Championships presented by Porsche. Is that an important goal for you for the rest of this year?

Definitely. I know I’m in the Top 8 right now, but there’s lots of tournaments before Los Angeles, and everyone is trying to get to the Championships. But if I made it, with all this tough competition, it would be something great for me.

Whether you qualify for LA or not, there’s plenty of reason to celebrate the year you’ve had. How will you do that?

I’ll spend it with my family, including my grandparents, who live in Latvia. I don’t get to see a lot of my family very much, because I’m traveling so much. But I know they’re always supporting, watching my matches on television when they can. I really appreciate all the support my family gives me, so I like to share my success with them.
 

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Really nice interview, and article, she sounds so happy!
 

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azza said:
:yawn: :smash: :yawn:
some problems with reading ?? that`s why you are so bored ??:confused:

great article .
thanks for posting it .
 

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Nice article.

Didn't realise she and Chanda were friendly with one another.

Ignore Azza - I think he's about 13 and struggles to read more than a couple of sentences.
 

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Learning the salsa with Benny? LOL.
 

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I was laughing about Elena trying to learn the salsa, but even more at the interviewer's referring to Los Angeles as "WTA Tour Championships presented by Porsche". Nobody actually speaks that way, but by God the WTA have to call their event that. :)
 

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Great interview!

:)

A very confident Elena!
 

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Wow!! Elena's grandparents live in my country :eek: I'm so surprised! :bounce:
 
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