Mylan World TeamTennis celebrates its 40th birthday this year. For more on WTT, including this season's schedule,
Among the many places professional tennis has taken Alla Kudryavtseva, Austin hasn’t been one of them.
“You know, I’ve traveled in America for so long, I’ve even lived here for a while, but Texas just avoided me,” the Russian explained in an interview with wtt.com in Miami.
￼A threat across all disciplines, Kudryavtseva first served notice in 2008, when she upset then-No. 2 Maria Sharapova in the second round of Wimbledon. The Russian will make her Mylan World TeamTennis roster debut as part of the Austin Aces and, with the help of a familiar research tool, has tried her best to brush up on her team’s home city.
“I’ve googled Austin, because that’s what I do; I google things! I heard nice things about the local restaurants and I’m looking forward to that. Plus, the skyline next to…I’m pretty sure it’s a river -- there are no oceans there, right?” she joked.
Kudryavtseva will have plenty of time to become familiar with the geography before landing this July, but is already very excited to indulge in Austin’s culinary delights.
“I love meat; that would be my favorite thing to eat! So I’m definitely looking forward to some barbeques and some brisket -- just good old American food. We tend to go to these exotic places, eat sushi, and I’m over it. I’m looking forward to trying some of the local cuisine.”
A former substitute for the Washington Kastles, Kudryavtseva will have to hit the ground running on a team that features fellow Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili, Andy Roddick, Jarmere Jenkins, and Nicole Gibbs.
“I’m excited about the line-up. It’s nice to have a countryman on the team, just so I feel a little more comfortable. I know Nicole. I don’t know Jarmere at all, but I’ve heard good things; I hear he has a lot of passion for the game.”
The Russian has plenty of passion of her own; known for wearing her heart on her sleeve during tough matches, the big-hitter believes that Mylan WTT’s famously energetic crowds will help tap into her best tennis.
“I’m an aggressive player. I have a big forehand, and a consistent backhand. I fight, and I love the atmosphere when the people are pumped, this kind of drive is what we play the game for, and I think WTT provides that.”
The professional team tennis league has a slightly different scoring system, with each set played to five games, and a nine-point tiebreaker should players tie at four games apiece. Kudryavtseva is looking forward to experiencing all of Mylan WTT’s innovative takes on the game, but plans to lean on her wealth of doubles knowledge to take her through the sudden-death nature of each game’s no-ad scoring.
“The color of the court is very different and unique, how all the parts of the court are colored differently. That’s fun but that takes a really big adjustment. Although the scoring is different, it’s not so different. Yes, it’s a shorter set, but it’s still games, and you play no-ad, and I play a lot of doubles where I play no-ad anyway, so I like it!”
A two-time Grand Slam doubles quarterfinalist, she and former Kastles teammate Anastasia Rodionova had a spectacular season that saw them qualify for the 2014 WTA Finals in Singapore.
“Just to be there in the Finals; we were fighting for it for the whole year, and at the end it got really competitive. We broke through, won that last tournament [in Tianjin], and qualified, even reaching the semifinals! Talk about an energetic crowd, they had an amazing crowd, as well -- the WTT crowd is going to have to top it.”
The grind of the three-week Mylan WTT season requires almost non-stop traveling, something that can be a tough ask of even the game’s most frequent flyers. But it’s an even bigger hurdle for Kudryavtseva, who harbors a surprising secret.
“I’m terrified of flying!” she admitted with a laugh. “I don’t know if I ever tweeted it -- because I’m a pretty active ‘Twitterer’ -- but that actually held me back from WTT for the last few years.”
But with her fellow Aces by her side, Kudryavtseva is confident that she will conquer her fear and the competition in her first full season of Mylan WTT.
“I think it’s time to embrace my fears and, you know, we’re going to travel with the team. It’s not when you’re alone and there’s nobody there for you. It’s going to be a team experience and I hope my teammates can help me through that fear of mine.”
A big hitter, a gusty competitor, and an entertaining personality, all systems are a “go” for Alla Kudryavtseva’s Mylan WTT season to truly take flight.