Vera Evolves: Catching Up with Zvonareva
Vera Zvonareva caught up with Maria Kirilenko Wednesday in Cincinnati, fighting back from 2-5 in the third set to win 7-5, 2-6, 7-6 (3) and reach the third round. Two days earlier we caught up with Zvonareva on her Wimbledon final, being emotional on court, growing up, and, yes, her attractive new coach.
Do you think of yourself differently after having been in the Wimbledon final?
In my mind I always knew I can be there. I always believed in myself. I just feel like I got that extra experience and I was able to go through some tough matches. And I was actually able to play seven matches in a row. It was the first time I had to play seven matches in a row in one tournament. It was just a great experience for me. Now I’m just looking forward. Hopefully I can improve my game a little bit and it will help me to go to the last stages of the Grand Slams every time I play.
Did playing Serena Williams, the best in the game, in a Grand Slam final make the experience even more special for you?
She’s definitely a great champion, and it’s definitely hard to play against her, especially in those finals. She’s so experienced and is able to go on the court and play those matches like she’s so relaxed, like it’s [the] first round or something. That’s what I will have to learn. Next time, if I will get the chance to be in the final of a Grand Slam, I will have to put everything out of my head and to play it like it’s my first match, to forget all that attention you’re getting by being in the final.
Serena hit 19 aces in two of her matches at Wimbledon. Did you go into the final expecting her to hit a lot of aces?
No, I never think this way. I actually thought that I’m a good returner, so if she can do it against me, that’s good for her. But otherwise I will make her go even for more. If she wants to ace me, well, she has to go for more. But I’m going to try to guess every serve and be there. No, I was just thinking about what should I do tactically to beat her: How should I hit that shot so she doesn’t hit her favorite shots? How do I make her more vulnerable on the court compared to previous matches?
Some players might get tight because they maybe don’t believe they can do it. For me it’s [the] opposite. I believe in myself so much, and I believe I can do it. Because I believe so much, I put more pressure on myself. Even if I’m losing 6-0, 5-0, I still believe I can win that match. Most players don’t in that situation. Maybe that’s why sometimes for me it’s tougher to come back—because I cannot relax. I keep fighting and keep fighting and sometimes I’m never relaxed on the court.
You get a lot of questions about being emotional on court. Does it bother you?
Yeah, sometimes if you’re tired, it feels like people always ask the same thing. It feels like they remember one match from, like, five years ago and they keep talking about it all the time. But that’s fine if they want to ask me this question. The most important thing is that I know I’m much more mature and experienced right now, I know how to manage myself. There are times, when I’m too tired, it’s much more difficult. You’re squeezed like a lemon—you cannot get anything out of yourself. But otherwise I know that if I put my mind into it, I know how to manage myself. Now I have so much experience, and I can always rely on that experience in the tough situations. And if people want to talk about emotions, they can talk about it. That’s fine.
How are things working out with your new coach?
So far so good. He’s a young coach, but…
Is he younger than you?
No, he’s my age, a bit older, but [around] my age. He was a player himself, so he knows about tennis a lot. It takes time to trust someone, but we talk about my game much more than in the beginning. I think he’s able to point a few things out much more now. He feels much more comfortable, he understands my game much better now. Coach cannot give to the players everything right away, because they have to learn—[with] some players you have to be gentle, some players you have to be more aggressive. It depends on the player’s personality. So coach has to find ways and keys to give you right direction. I mean, we’ve all been playing tennis for the past 20 years. We all know how to play. It’s the coach’s job to give a little direction, to point out things he thinks may not help you during the match or he thinks are helping you during the match, so you’re able to use those things to your advantage more during the matches. So in the crucial moments you’re able to make the right choices, you’re able to go for the right serves, you’re able to go for the right shots. He’s getting much more comfortable. He’s seeing my game much better now. So we’ll see—no pressure on that. We’ll work together, and we’ll see where it’s going to take us.
Did you know that he has quite a fan club? The women seem to really like him.
No [laughs]. I don’t follow all that.