Getting To Know... Regina Kulikova
Published June 25, 2009 03:46
LONDON, UK - She's been to tea with the late Boris Yeltsin, was married at 19 and had more than her fair share of injuries… quite a life for a young woman who is still only 20. Long considered one of Russia's most promising prospects, Kulikova's progress stalled under a long list of physical problems, and so this fortnight at Wimbledon she is playing her very first Grand Slam main draw. But, as the qualifier demonstrated with her second round win over No.27 seed Alisa Kleybanova - who also happened to attend that presidential gathering back in 2004 - Kulikova's talent has never gone away. She just needs to stay healthy, especially if she is to compete with the likes of Elena Dementieva, her third round opponent at The Championships on Friday.
Sonyericssonwtatour.com caught up with the world No.191 after her win in the final round of qualifying at Roehampton - an achievement that was no mean feat given it was just her third tournament back after six months on the sidelines with an abdominal muscle injury.
How did you get started in tennis?
RK: I was born in Almaty in Kazakhstan and when I was six my mother took me to the tennis courts near our house just to try it out. I'm an only child and nobody in my family played tennis, but my father played professional basketball. Also, on my mother's side my grandfather was the coach of the national volleyball team for 40 years - it's incredible!
At what point did you start to take tennis seriously?
RK: Around the age of 13 I was playing junior tournaments and doing quite well, but I guess about three years ago I really decided that tennis was my objective and worked out what I was going to do.
Who did you look to when you were growing up?
RK: Steffi Graf was always my idol, and also for me Federer is just…'wow'.
Did you try to model your game on Steffi's at all?
RK: Oh, we are different kinds of players. My forehand is also my best shot, along with my serve, but I think I'm more aggressive, try to volley a bit more. But she was a big example to me as a person, in terms of maturity and concentration.
What's the best thing about life on the Tour?
RK: Everybody is special, talented and hard-working, which is an amazing environment to be in. Our lives are very different to other people's. I'm enjoying the travel and playing tournaments. It's hard work, but it's a nice life.
What are the downsides?
RK: Nothing really… I have my coaches around me and my mother sometimes travels with me, so I am happy in my small world.
What do you like to do to relax?
RK: I like reading books, listening to music, doing yoga.
You were only 19 when you married your husband, Simone Serges. How did you meet?
RK: For about four years I practiced in Italy, and I met him at the tennis courts. He's not a tennis player but he was trying to play! He's a nice person, I'm very happy with my marriage. He's an aeronautical engineer; he used to work for Rolls-Royce and now he is with Alstom, so he doesn't travel with me because of his job. But he gives me a lot of support over the telephone.
If you hadn't pursued tennis as a career, what else might have interested you?
RK: I still think that maybe when I finish I would like to be a psychologist. I've read some books about it. And of course psychology is so important in tennis - it's everything really.
Who haven't you played on the Tour that you would most like to?
RK: Either Williams sister. When I was a child I used to watch them on TV a lot. I think I'm quite good and would fight well.
What's your best tennis memory so far?
RK: I beat Vesnina last year at Los Angeles and she was a Top 50 player. Then I lost 7-6 to Stosur in the third set but it was still a great match for me. But obviously, now qualifying for Wimbledon is huge for me.
What are your goals at the moment?
RK: First of all to stay fit, as for three years I struggled with injuries and didn't play a lot of tournaments, and in fact this is only my third tournament back after a six month break. But I'm happy with my tennis level and I think I can get to Top 50 or Top 60 by the end of the year. I just have to take it step by step. Ultimately I would like to be Top 10.