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Getting To Know... Ekaterina Bychkova

Lost in Paris? Just ask this Russian for directions.

Published October 10, 2005 12:00

Getting To Know... Ekaterina Bychkova
Ekaterina Bychkova

BALI, Indonesia - Russia's Ekaterina Bychkova has taken some giant leaps in recent weeks on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Shortly after making her Top 100 debut on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Singles Rankings in the summer, the 20-year-old stunned defending US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first round at Flushing Meadows, which would be her career-first victory over a Top 10 player. Although she fell in the second round at the year's final Grand Slam, she surged from No.97 to No.75 in the rankings afterwards.

In her next event in Bali, Bychkova ousted Indian sensation Sania Mirza in the first round before falling in the second round. As the top seed this past week in Tashkent, the talkative, always-enthusiastic Bychova reached her career-first Tour semifinal before falling to eventual winner Michaella Krajicek.

How did you get started playing tennis?
EB: I started playing when I was six-and-a-half. My mother decided I should try tennis; I'm not sure why, because she didn't play herself, but I'm glad she introduced me to it. I played at Spartak club for a while, and that's where I worked with Aleksander Krayshkin.

Did you get to hit with the other players at Spartak who are now stars on the Tour?
EB: Not so much. There are photos on the walls at the club of (Anastasia) Myskina, (Elena) Dementieva, (Dinara) Safina and (Svetlana) Kuznetsova. I've hit with Dinara and Sveta several times, but not with the older players.

How did you juggle playing tennis and your studies?
EB: It was difficult at times. I went to school from 8am to 2pm, then I would go to practice. I missed school from time to time when I went to tournaments, but I managed to keep up with my studies.

Did you travel overseas very much when you were playing juniors?
EB: Yes, I went to tournaments mainly in Europe. I would compete in about 12 tournaments a year.

When was your first trip to the United States? What was that like?
EB: It was when I went to Indian Wells this year. It was great; the weather in California is really good, and we stayed with a family while we were there, who were really nice. I still keep in touch with them. But my first trip to New York (for the US Open) was amazing. For the first two days I was walking around Manhattan in a daze - all the tall buildings, the taxi cabs, the noise and the people. It was just like in the movies; exactly like I imagined it!

Of course you had that great result at the US Open. When you saw the draw before the tournament began, what did you think?
EB: I thought that maybe I was having a little bit of bad luck, but I was looking forward to the match. Sveta and I are both from Russia, and we're about the same age, but obviously she has a lot more experience than me; she was the defending champion! I think that was a bad thing for her, because everyone expected her to win, but I just went out there to try my best and have fun. I thought maybe somewhere back in my mind that I could win. Why not?!

And when you beat her, what was your feeling?
EB: It was unbelievable. As I was coming off the court I was shaking; I was trying to sign autographs and I could barely hold the pen! I think the next couple of days I was in shock. The night I beat her I hardly slept because I was getting phone calls and text messages from Russia all night. It was like I won the whole US Open! I tried to tell myself it was just one match, and after I lost in the next round I was disappointed, but I was still in shock. It was an amazing time.

Do you think the fact that you were the underdog helped you?
EB: Possibly. Like I said, we're about the same age, but Sveta has had more experience than me. We used to play against each other when we were younger, but in the past couple of years she hasn't seen me play much. Of course, I've seen her play quite a bit.

What's your favorite city to visit?
EB: That would definitely be Paris. It's just so beautiful, and wonderful for sightseeing. I love going to Notre Dame, visiting the museums, and the shopping too! I think I know the Paris Metro better than the Moscow Metro! I really like visiting that city and being a part of the atmosphere there.

What goals have you set for yourself?
EB: My goal is to stay in the Top 100, and to keep working hard, so I can get into the Top 50. After that, we'll see what happens.

What types of off-court training do you do?
EB: I do a lot of running and sprinting. I also jump rope for my footwork, and when I'm not at an event I also like to swim.

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