Getting To Know... Valeria Savinykh
Published February 01, 2013 12:17
With 14 players in the draw, it is fair to say that Russia was well represented at last month's Australian Open. And while the usual suspects were flying the flag at the business end of the tournament, it was World No.159 Valeria Savinykh that probably went away most satisfied with her fortnight's work.
After coming through qualifying to make just her second Grand Slam main draw appearance, Savinykh knocked out No.15 seed Dominika Cibulkova en route to the third round before coming up just short against Kirsten Flipkens.
So what is the secret behind the 21-year-old's Melbourne breakthough? Well, wtatennis.com caught up with her to find out the answer to this and a whole lot more.
Where are you from in Russia?
VS: It's a city called Yekaterinburg and is about 1,800km to the east of Moscow, close to the Ural Mountains. It's actually a very big city and I think it's the third largest in Russia. I miss it when I'm travelling because most of my family - my father, my grandparents and my dog! - are there. When I'm back, I am always in such a rush because I have so little time to see all of my friends and also do the other things, like visit the university and see my physio.
Can you tell us about your family?
VS: My father used to play hockey, but he stopped, I think in juniors - he said he was a little bit lazy - but his father was a successful coach. My mom was dancing ballet professionally, although when I started to play seriously she started travelling with me and trying to help my dreams come true!
How did you start playing tennis?
VS: My father introduced me to tennis when I was five years old. He was picking me up from my kindergarten and driving me to play tennis. I remember waking up on my fifth birthday and one of the gifts was a tennis racquet, and I was happy to go out and play with it. I was pretty lucky because all the kids in my group were older than me so the coach ended up paying more attention to me.
When did you start to take tennis more seriously?
VS: I think when I was seven or eight I started to practice more and was playing at least once or twice a day. From a young age I was balancing school and tennis.
Who is your current coach?
VS: Right now, I am with Tomasz Iwanski - he is former coach of Nadia Petrova - and I'm very happy working with him. Every day he is telling me something new and very useful stuff, so I'm very lucky with him! A friend of mine gave me Tomasz's phone number and we started working together just before the pre-season. It is good to have a permanent coach because last year was tough; I was training at the SotoTennis Academy in the south of Spain, but every week on tour I was practicing with different people and it got to the point where I needed something more stable.
How would you describe your style of play?
VS: Well, I have good baseline game - or I think so, at least! I'm quite aggressive and learning all the time how to hit more slice and spin and come to the net more. I think my game is becoming more varied all the time and this is something Tomasz has really helped with.
Who were your tennis idols growing up?
VS: I used to love Andre Agassi. I just read his book and I really liked it and it was written in a really interesting way. Also, I really liked watching Kafelnikov and actually I used to practice with his former coach. Martina Hingis was another player I looked up to. She was incredible and I'd love to meet her in person one day.
What are your goals in tennis?
VS: I discussed this with Tomasz actually, and we are aiming to get my ranking high enough to make the main draw of the US Open. So by that time, I want to be Top 100 and then by the end of the year Top 70, and, obviously, after that I am aiming to get even higher
What is your favorite tournament and surface?
VS: After last week, definitely hardcourts and the Australian Open!
How far did you go in your education?
VS: I finished school and now I'm at the business university. It's difficult studying while I'm on tour, because my subjects - computer programming and economics - are not easy. But I get help from my mentor at the university - he puts lessons online, tells me what to read, when my work is due in and discusses with me the subjects.
What do you like to do to for fun?
VS: I like going to the cinema. But, at the place where I live, I don't have so many friends so it's not so nice to go alone! I love sushi and am always going out to eat that with my mom.
If you could meet anyone in the world who would you like it to be?
VS: Maybe Martina Hingis and Andre Agassi!
What would you have done if you hadn't been a tennis player?
VS: I think I would like to help people, so maybe doing something for people who are from difficult backgrounds or work for a charity.
If you were stranded on a desert island and could only take one possession with you, what would it be?
VS: I am still a child, and I have a toy that I travel with so I would like to take that with me! It is a pink chicken called Henrietta!