Saturday, July 24, 2010

Getting To Know... Anastasia Pivovarova - Thanks to WTA Tour

Earmarked as a future champion at an early age, Anastasia Pivovarova certainly lived up to expectations in the juniors by working her way to No.2 in the world. But while she has won five ITF Circuit singles titles since then, a string of injuries have hampered the tall Muscovite's transition to the senior ranks. Now, however, there are signs the 20-year-old's fortunes are changing. As a qualifier at Roland Garros she beat Zheng Jie on her way to the third round, and this week she is through to her first-ever Sony Ericsson WTA Tour quarterfinal at the Nürnberger Gastein Ladies.

How did you get started in tennis?
AP: I was six years old. My parents took me to one of the best tennis schools in Russia, it's called Luzhniki. There was a test for the new group of beginners and I passed all the tests. After one year the coaches said to my parents that I was doing really well and had the potential to be pro. They asked my parents if they wanted me to move into the group of young kids that wanted to be professional. And so I did.

Did you have a tennis idol when you were a kid?
AP: When I was starting to play tennis it was Anna Kournikova and Marat Safin. Well, first of all they're both good looking and it was always a joy to watch them play. Also, they're both very talented and good fighters. I know Marat and he has a great personality.

How do you describe your playing style?
AP: I like to combine different strokes and change the rhythm and the height of the ball and play 'smart' tennis. I like to run a lot so I have a lot of patience to fight for every point. I really like to play of clay, but I also like hardcourts as well.

If you could steal a shot from another player, what would it be?
AP: I would say the backhand slice of Justine Henin.

Have you always trained in Russia?
AP: I practised in Russia at three different clubs, but when I was 12 I started to go to the States, to Florida, to practise during the winter season. First I was at the Evert Academy and then Bollettieri's. Then for the clay court seasons I'd go back to Europe and practise in Russia. Right now I'm based in Barcelona, at the Sánchez-Casal Academy - I started there earlier this year, one month before Roland Garros. I have two coaches, Stefan Ortega is working with me but he cannot travel, and Tony Baldellou is traveling with me and working with me full time. Dani Romero is my fitness coach.

You've been out of juniors for a couple of years now; how has the transition to the Tour been?
AP: After I finished in juniors, three years in a row I had really big injuries... it was non-stop. First I had a broken abdominal muscle, and I didn't play for three months. Then I had my back problems for five months, then I broke my wrist and that was another three months. I was always in the Top 200 but playing maybe five tournaments a year without injuries, so it was really tough for me to stay there.

What is the main difference between the juniors and the Tour?
AP: The difference between the juniors and the pro circuit is that you don't get anything for free… in the juniors they just give some matches away and maybe at some tournaments it's easy to get to the semis almost not doing anything. On the women's Tour, even from the first round of qualies you have to fight a lot to win each point.

Who has been your toughest opponent to date?
AP: It's hard to say because every match is difficult. I was really happy to play against such a big player as Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon, because I lost in qualies but I got a chance to play in the main draw as a lucky loser. But you could see from the match it was her favorite surface… I didn't have a lot of time, she was playing so fast and powerful. She beat me 61 60, but it was a good experience for me to compare myself to her level, on a grass court.

What are your goals in tennis?
AP: For this year my goal is to make the Top 100 in time for the Australian Open, so I don't have to play qualies any more. I played Samantha Stosur in the third round at Roland Garros and I think if you haven't played qualies you're not as tired and you can show a better game, you know? Long term I'd like to get to the Top 10.

Do you have a favorite city or Tour stop?
AP: I really like Barcelona. The center is beautiful and you also have the mountains and the beach and I like both. I also like to go back to Moscow. I'm not often there but I love the city very much.

How far did you go in your studies?
AP: I finished high school, the last few years by correspondence - through the internet and I also had private lessons with teachers. Right now I'm studying economics at a university in Russia, also by correspondence.

There's a cute story about your maths teacher…
AP: Yes, my maths teacher started to cry when I told her I was going to go pro in tennis. I was really good with numbers when I was at school. I think I have good genes from my grandfather!

Have you thought about what you'd do with your life if you weren't playing tennis?
AP: I don't think I'd have had just one job, because I can't imagine sitting in an office doing the same thing every day. I'd get really bored. So maybe a couple of different jobs! If I'd studied economics, then maybe something to do with business or banking. Maybe some management.

How do you like to spend your free time?
AP: I like to do spa things that girls like. If I had a day off I would just spend it in the spa. I like reading, I like music, I like going to the cinema and shopping. And right now I'm learning how to cook. With all the traveling we do, we get to experience all kinds of food. I like Italian, and also Russian. But if I'm in, say, China and I really like a meal I have, I'll probably ask for the recipe or find it on the internet and try to do it myself.

Do you have a favorite book?
AP: My favorite book is Lance Armstrong's It's Not About the Bike. I read it at that moment that I had injuries and it just gave me the push to fight till the end, because it's really tough mentally to get through that.

What's your most treasured possession?
AP: The family counts? I would say my family. I love them a lot and really miss them. They are all in Moscow, but if I have a chance to go and see them even for a few days, I go and try and see everybody - both my family and friends. They have the biggest value for me.

Tell us about your family.
AP: My dad is the director of a building company in Moscow, and also does some work in mining. My mum helps me by always traveling with me. I have two stepbrothers. One is 25 years old and one just turned 10.

How do you think your best friend might describe you?
AP: That I have a big heart. If it's my best friend or my family, I'll give everything to them no matter how much it costs or however they need my help. Also I'm a funny person and have a good sense of humor.

What qualities do you appreciate in others?
AP: Honesty, first of all. Good sense of humor. And being strong in the tough moments.

If you could meet anyone in the world, who would it be?
AP: If you'd asked me a few years ago, I'd have said Sharapova! I'm so happy that I got a chance to meet her and get to know her a little bit. Right now I'd say Roger Federer, because I'm a big fan - he's my idol.

If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one luxury with you, what would you choose?
AP: I would say music. I listen to everything: house, R&B, pop - it really depends on my mood. Without music I don't know how you can live.

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